Friday, May 8, 2015

Seattle Opera's Ariadne auf Naxos sparkles

Kate Lindsey and Sarah Coburn. Photo: Elise Bakketun.
Seattle Opera's production of Ariadne auf Naxos began its run Friday, May 2nd at McCaw Hall in Seattle. Featuring Kate Lindsey as The Composer, Sarah Coburn as Zerbinetta and Christiane Libor as The Prima Donna (Ariadne),  there was marvelous singing to be heard.

The Prologue took place under a monolithic, austere gray arch like a concrete wall, and with costumes reminiscent of the mid-century or so it was a stylish setting. Lindsey gave an outstanding performance vocally speaking--she possesses an incredibly vibrant and nuanced voice, capable of shifting easily between timbres.  When she sang Mächtige gott it was immediately entrancing--she ranged from a clear, bell-like timbre, perfectly understandable even when whispering quiet, to a large, bold mezzo. As she and Zerbinetta discuss their competing visions of the Ariadne myth the whole process unfolds naturally, a slow, sinuous descent into a strange infatuation. Patrick Carfizzi as the harried Music Teacher also deserves special note for his expansive, inviting baritone.

The orchestra, under Lawrence Renes, rendered the overture to The Opera in a sentimental, homey way, like listening to an old crackling phonograph. The trio with Naiad, Dryad and Echo (Amanda Opuszynski, Maya Lahyani, Andrea Carroll) began the spellbinding of the myth--a languid discourse featuring fascinating blocking with an oddly hypnotic blue cloth simulating waves over and over and over...

Christiane Libor had an extremely difficult task with the lengthy, serious arias that Ariadne is tasked with singing. In Ein schönes war, in which she laments her lost love, it felt like something was lacking at times in the low end of her range. Still the overall effect was powerful--her careful, stylized acting, in which each gesture and facial expression carried added weight, only served to heighten the outcome.  She had to maintain her tragic mien and remain immune to the capering  during the bits of silliness and frippery when the harlequinade made forays subtle or bold onto the rock where she expounded her grief. She retained an air of complete sadness in the face of all efforts to cheer her up, and there was a sense of continuity to her performance despite the bits of comedy.

Christiane Libor as Ariadne. Photo by Alan Alabastro.

Coburn's Zerbinetta nearly stole the show with Grossmächtige Prinzessin. Her character seemed determined not to be outdone or drowned out in the face of Ariadne's grief, and she along with her entourage provided the much-needed counterpoint to Ariadne. Coburn's singing was magnificent--light when called for, yet with plenty of heft to back it up as needed. Her comedic styling was impeccable, and all this plus her charisma made her the center of attention whenever she was on stage. During the 'show within a show' staging of the opera, it was fun to watch see SO's iconic former general director Speight Jenkins as a member of the onstage audience, much to the delight of the actual audience at McCaw.

SO's production of Ariadne auf Naxos continues its run through May 16th at McCaw Hall.

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