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A rich patron has organized some after-dinner entertainment: a comedy troupe and a newly commissioned opera. However, dinner has overrun. To the horror of all involved, he commands that the two entertainments be performed simultaneously, so that they’ll be finished in time for the fireworks.

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Ariadne auf Naxos playfully combines two very different art forms: tragic opera and romantic farce. The result is a richly textured work that examines the role of art in society, and contrasts true love with cheerful promiscuity. Richard Strauss and his librettist Hugo von Hofmannsthal originally conceived the opera as part of a large-scale arrangement of Molière’s play Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme. Though the initial run of performances in 1912 was well received, Strauss and Hofmannsthal decided to rework the piece – the Molière material was abandoned in favour of a new operatic Prologue. This second, fully operatic version had its premiere in 1916 and is now a part of the established repertory.

Christof Loy’s eye-catching production draws on an eclectic range of styles, from 18th-century elegance to 1980s grunge, in a response to the extraordinary richness of Strauss’s score. The opera is filled with passion and colour: there’s the intense lyricism of the Composer’s paean to music, the richly scored love duet for Ariadne and Bacchus and Zerbinetta’s show-stopping aria ‘Großmächtige Prinzessin’. Other highlights include Ariadne’s lyrical arias and the robust, folkish ensembles for Zerbinetta’s comedy troupe.

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On Wikipedia

Emily Magee as Ariadne and Jonas Kaufmann as Bacchus, Salzburg Festival 2012

Ariadne auf Naxos (Ariadne on Naxos), Op. 60, is an opera by Richard Strauss with a German libretto by Hugo von Hofmannsthal. Bringing together slapstick comedy and consummately beautiful music, the opera's theme is the competition between high and low art for the public's attention. Music critic and author Matt Dobkin wrote that, while Ariadne auf Naxos is "not as well loved as Der Rosenkavalier or as important as Salome, it is nevertheless staged all the time, thanks in large part to sopranos' attraction to the vocal and dramatic grandeur of the title role and to the compelling spitfire Zerbinetta character."

Abstract taken from the Wikipedia article Ariadne auf Naxos, available under a Creative Commons license.