Strauss: Ariadne on Naxos, Christine Brewer (Ariadne) et al, Scottish Chamber Orchestra/Armstrong | CD review


Richard Strauss in English? Yes, when the cast is as smart and committed as this, with American soprano Christine Brewer, already an incomparable Ariadne, in the title role and nearly every top British singer you care to name in support: Alice Coote a wonderfully ardent Composer, John Graham-Hall the spiky Dancing Master, Gillian Keith exuding bird-like charm as Zerbinetta, not to mention Roderick Williams (Harlequin), Matthew Rose (Truffaldino), Alan Opie (Music Master) and Pamela Helen Stephen (Dryad). As a bonus, Stephen Fry musters droll solemnity as the non-singing Major-Domo.

Hofmannsthal's fine but word-rich libretto is clear and audible in Christopher Cowell's translation. The recording was made at the Usher Hall, Edinburgh last year. Sir Richard Armstrong conducts a voluptuous but brisk performance, with sinewy playing from the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, who also the suite from Lully's Le bourgeois gentilhomme.

The ideal, if you can, is to get to know the opera first at home, then hear it in the original German in the opera house. It's the one reason to treasure Chandos's long-established Opera in English series.


Fiona Maddocks

The GuardianTramp

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