On Stage: Ariadne On Naxos

We wrap up opera month at Opera Theatre of Saint Louis with “Ariadne on Naxos,” referred to as “a prologue and an opera in one act,” by Richard Strauss and Hugo von Hofmannsthal. I’m not sure how you can call something ” one act” when there’s an intermission, but I don’t write what’s in the program I just report it.

I found this to be an odd duck, even for opera. It starts off as your typical backstage comedy of errors. Some rich dude has hired an opera troupe and a comedy team to entertain at the end of one of his grand dinners. The opera people are disgusted that they have to share a stage with those lowbrow comedians and the comedians aren’t happy that they will have to wake up the audience after it sits through some boring-ass opera.


Things only get worse when the dinner runs long and the host demands that both the opera and the vaudeville show take place on the same stage at the same time. Thus ends the prologue of the show, which I found pretty entertaining.

I come back from intermission assuming that there’s going to be more craziness as the opera people and the comics try to upstage each other and generally get in each other’s way. Instead, it plays out like your typical boring-ass opera with the comedians just joining into the opera’s story line to sing a song or two as if they had always been written into it.

All the conflict of the prologue has disappeared as well as characters, like the composer, who play a key role in the prologue but are never seen again.

The Wife thought the show was ‘terribly romantic’ but I found it strange and unsatisfying. The music was fine and the actors were all talented and there were some nicely elaborate costumes. But I found the second act — excuse me, the opera — to be everything the comedians were warning about in the prologue. I did indeed have trouble staying awake.

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