ariadne auf naxos
It is 1958, a time when opera divas and ﬁlm goddesses like Maria Callas and Marilyn Monroe almost equally excite the public’s attention. For a brief time, high art and popular entertainment make headlines side by side.
We ﬁnd ourselves one summer evening at Pinecroft, the mansion built by Powel Crosley, Jr., wealthy Cincinnati inventor and arts patron. Preparations are underway for a theatrical entertainment; Crosley has invited both a troupe of comics and an entire opera company to entertain his guests after supper. Consternation ensues when the butler announces that, because dinner is running long and ﬁreworks will begin at precisely 10 p.m., the brilliant young Composer’s serious opera on the tragedy of the deserted Ariadne is to be performed simultaneously with the comedy! Zerbinetta, the vivacious leading lady of the comic troupe, ﬂirts with the Composer in an attempt to unravel the plot of his opera. Idealistic though he is on matters of both music and love, the Composer cannot help but be charmed by her gaily cynical attitude to the tragic Ariadne. Then a bell rings: the performance is due to begin, and it is too late for the Composer to prevent the ruin of his tragic masterpiece.
Following a tradition begun in 1923, when Crosley’s radio station WLW ﬁrst started broadcasting Cincinnati Opera performances from the Cincinnati Zoo, this performance will be broadcast live from Pinecroft. The opera-within-an-opera opens to reveal the inconsolable Ariadne lying outside a cave on the island of Naxos. She has been abandoned there by her lover Theseus and, despite all the efforts of the comic troupe to cheer her up, she longs to die. Zerbinetta preaches a more practical attitude: one man can soon be replaced with another. Bacchus arrives and Ariadne welcomes him, believing that he is the Herald of Death. Instead, to Zerbinetta’s satisfaction, Ariadne and Bacchus fall in love, celebrating their union in a long and rapturous duet.