Ariadne auf Naxos
A Young Artists Program Production
The richest man in town has commissioned a gifted young
Composer to write a new opera, Ariadne auf Naxos, which will
be presented this evening for the entertainment of his guests.
Preparations are under way as the opera singers discover to
their consternation that a troupe of local hipster comedians
is also scheduled to perform on the same program. How
will the two shows possibly work together as one evening’s
entertainment? Everyone’s confusion increases when they
receive the news that since fireworks are set to go off at
precisely nine o’clock that night, the two performances will
have to take place simultaneously in order to save time. At
first despairing of ever being able to present the opera as
conceived, the Composer is eventually convinced by Zerbinetta,
the free-thinking leader of the comedians, that all will be well.
The Composer falls under her spell and, believing that music
will always reign supreme, agrees to the proposed union of the
As the opera begins, three nymphs—Naiad, Dryad, and
Echo—sing of the sorrow of Ariadne, who has been abandoned
on the island of Naxos by Theseus. He brought her there after
she helped him defeat the Minotaur at her father King Minos’s
palace on Crete. Ariadne mourns her fate. Zerbinetta and her
colleagues, notably Harlequin, try in vain to amuse Ariadne.
Ariadne has loved one man and one man alone, and now that
he has abandoned her, she can hope only for death. Zerbinetta
urges her to forget the ex and find another lover. She sings at
length about her own experiences with men—she loves them
and leaves them, and another always shows up, each seeming
like a god at first blush. Ariadne remains steadfastly miserable
until the nymphs announce the arrival of the youthful god
Bacchus, fresh from his dalliance with the enchantress Circe.
Ariadne persists in believing that he is the messenger of death,
come to free her. He agrees that he will transform her, but
through love, not death. In their final duet, Ariadne sings of
her wonder at the change occurring within her, while Bacchus
assures her of his devotion. Zerbinetta points out that “a new
god” has indeed come, just as she predicted. A wondrous
transformation has occurred through the power of music.