10YAP-Ariadne rev cb 78.jpg
Chris Bennion
Slywotzky and Hart heat up Act 2.
Act 2 of Richard Strauss' Ariadne auf Naxos is basically a revue; there's no plot, only

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Last Night: Seduction and Cross-Dressing in an Operatic Mashup

10YAP-Ariadne rev cb 78.jpg
Chris Bennion
Slywotzky and Hart heat up Act 2.
Act 2 of Richard Strauss' Ariadne auf Naxos is basically a revue; there's no plot, only the playing-out of the premise set up in Act 1: For his guests, a wealthy host plans an evening's entertainment consisting of an opera seria and a commedia dell'arte troupe. To save time, the two are told to perform simultaneously. And as in any revue, some of the episodes work and others don't so much. Not among Strauss' strengths was the ability to keep a comic scene moving along, and even the always-lively singers in the Seattle Opera Young Artists program (who perform Ariadne again April 3, 9, and 11 at Bellevue's Meydenbauer Center) have their work cut out for them making the comedy troupe's appearances as absorbing as those "serious" passages where we have luscious music to wallow in.

And for sheer ear-gluttony, this production will be hard to beat. Meydenbauer's smallish stage is filled mostly by 40 members of the Auburn Symphony; the set is merely a low platform in front of them, another above and behind them, and a staircase connecting the two. The heaviest singing is given to Ariadne--abandoned on the isle of Naxos in the Greek-myth-based opera-within-the-opera--and her rescuer Bacchus. The ringing, vibrant voices of both Marcy Stonikas and Gregory Carroll ride atop the orchestra (almost literally, given the size of the stage) and shake Meydenbauer's walls as they must rarely have been shaken. Carroll, especially, is excellent; his tenor has a glorious bloom and sheen to it. Bacchus is a brief role in by-the-clock stage time, but, high and soaring throughout, it must feel like Götterdämmerung to sing. Last night he had only a little trouble at the climax of his and Ariadne's closing duet--more precisely, he stopped singing for a bar or two when he anticipated having trouble. Otherwise he sounded spectacular.

Also among the Act 2 vaudeville lineup is a gorgeous, silvery trio by three nymphs, Naiad (Joanna Foote), Dryad (Jenni Bank), and Echo (Jennifer Edwards), striking Grecian-urn attitudes dressed in three shades of violet, and a couple of glance-at-your-watch ensembles by the commedia troupe--Strauss' fault, not the singers', who have fun and sound fine. The lead comedienne, Zerbinetta, gets the score's big show-off aria, staged by director Peter Kazaras as a flirtation with the Composer--a brilliant idea, since it gives the aria's acrobatics a point: seduction. With easy high notes and an insouciant style, Megan Hart thoroughly works it.

The other half of the success of this scene is Vira Slywotzky in her silent walk-on as the seduced Composer. This "trouser role" does all his singing in Act 1, depicting the backstage preparations for the Act 2 seriocomic mashup. Slywotzky, in suit and tie, resets the bar for a convincing female portrayal of a young man, one of opera's more curious conventions. Hopelessly idealistic, the Composer will not shut up about the Importance of his opera and his disappointment at having it sullied by low comedy, and Slywotzky makes her character both moving and amusingly irritating, in a wonderful way. (I speak from experience, having met my share of out-to-save-the-world 20-something composers.) Also heard in Act 1, in the very definition of "luxury casting," was veteran Metropolitan Opera bass Michael Devlin in the 10-line role of the Major-Domo, his voice still powerful and thrilling at 67.

Meydenbauer Center, 11100 N.E. Sixth St., Bellevue, 389-7676, seattleopera.org. $15-$35. 7:30 p.m. Sat., April 3 & Fri., April 9, 2 p.m. Sun., April 11.

 
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