The Dallas Morning News, 23 July 2014
Scott Cantrell
Opera DVDs: ‘Don Carlo,’ ‘Ariadne” from Salzburg Festival
For all the hand-wringing about the death of the classical-music recording business, an amazing amount of product continues to come out. Here, on Blu-ray discs, are two high-profile opera productions from the Salzburg Festival. Among the attractions, in two very different roles, is Jonas Kaufmann, probably the hottest thing among heldentenors these days—and, in the high-definition video, quite visibly working up sweats.


I did a double-take when the Ariadne disc started playing: was the wrong opera recording erroneously slipped into the Blu-ray package? No, this is the original 1912 version of the Strauss opera, not the standard-rep 1916 revision—except that it isn’t. Into what was originally a spoken prologue, based on Molière’s Le bourgeois gentilhomme, stage director Sven-Eric Bechtolf has inserted even more dialogue, introducing librettist Hugo von Hofmannsthal and his then-love interest Ottonie von Degenfeld-Schonburg as additional dramatis personae. Original incidental music is inserted here and there.

This makes for a lot of silly chitchat and, in this production, way too much slapstick, before we get to any familiar music. The opera proper gets splendid vocalism from the Bacchus of Kaufmann, here sounding his beefier Teutonic self and looking, well, like a god. He meets his match in Emily Magee’s incandescent Ariadne and Elena Mosuc’s brilliant Zerbinetta, and even the nymphs and clowns are consistently fine. Conductor Daniel Harding coordinates and shapes everything surely and sympathetically, and again the Vienna Philharmonic is in fine fettle.

But few will want to dispense with the familiar musical prologue, especially with all this nonsense as an alternative. The considerable musical assets of what is here do not redeem a concept gone wild.

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