I went to the decidedly odd production of Ariadne auf Naxos at Glyndebourne yesterday evening - amply described elsewhere when it was first seen, and again on the occasion of this revival. So I wont go into that! But I have to say that the astonishing singing of the title role eliminated all reservations to a distant back burner - Lise Davidsen appeared to be all that she was touted to be, and then some. And now I look forward to seeing her in Wexford in October in Cherubini's Medea. That will be something indeed.......
Glyndebourne has had a long and distinguished attachment to Richard Strauss. The first Music Director Fritz Busch was, of course, a long time colleague of Strauss and thus it was natural that Ariadne (perfect for the house) should enter the repertoire - way back in 1953. In fact Busch never conducted it at Glyndebourne, not even when the first version (without the Vorspiel) had been done two years before at the Edinburgh Festival. (Sir Thomas Beecham conducted it then)
Glyndebourne's love affair with Strauss persisted for decades - the next piece was Der Rosenkavalier in 1959 - directed by Carl Ebert with an historic cast - Régine Crespin, Elisabeth Soderstrom and Anneliese Rothenberger. And then in 1963 Capriccio with Soderstrom. In 1965 Rosenkavalier was revived, memorably conducted by John Pritchard, with Caballé, Zylis-Gara, and Mathis. I sat through all those rehearsals and most of the performances. I still dream of hearing the Act 3 trio sounding more sensuous and utterly thrilling. It will never.
The 1970s brought Ariadne back in John Cox's brilliant production, which he then followed with his remarkable adaptation of the Rennert production of Capriccio - again with Elisabeth Soderstrom. It was then taken up by the Glyndebourne Touring Opera in 1976 to introduce the wonderful young Felicity Lott to the world.
In 1974 Soderstrom returned for Intermezzo (Busch had conducted the premiere of it in Dresden in 1924), then Schweigsame Frau was introduced in1978. This was indeed a remarkable John Cox/Strauss decade! And it was capped in 1980 by his production, designed by Erté, of Rosenkavalier - with the lovely Felicity Lott as Oktavian. Is it really 37 years ago? I weep - it is like yesterday.......
For me it all ended with the Arabella in 1984 with Felicity Lott cast in the title role - but she had to withdraw to give birth to her daughter. However she returned, gloriously, for the revival the following year.
I am thrilled that Strauss still lives in this theatre which has such a long association with him. With more singers such as were chosen this year Strauss has a long life ahead of him in Sussex! I am sure they can find the conductors and directors to do these marvellous operas justice. But of course they are somewhat unfashionable these days - things come and go don't they?