Ariadne auf Naxos
Ariadne auf Naxos consists of a prologue followed by an opera in one act.
At a party hosted by the richest man in the city, performers prepare to entertain guests with a new opera based on the Ariadne legend. But the artists are running into trouble. The Major-Domo tells the Music-Master that a comedy is to be performed right after his protégé’s serious opera. When the Music-Master explains this to the Composer, the young man is quite upset. The Composer has other problems as well: he wants a rehearsal, but The Major-Domo’s Assistant informs him that the musicians are busy. He wants to rehearse with the Prima Donna, but he cannot find her. An inspiration brings him a new melody, but the Tenor is too busy arguing with the Wigmaker to listen.
Meanwhile, the Composer meets the leading comedienne, Zerbinetta, and finds himself attracted to her. Then The Major-Domo comes back with really terrible news: the host does not want the comedy to follow the opera; he wants them played simultaneously. The Dancing-Master extracts musical cuts from the despairing Composer, while the comedians are given a briefing on the opera’s plot. Zerbinetta decides her troupe will portray a band of travelers trapped with the princess Ariadne on the island of Naxos.
Zerbinetta entrances the Composer with her charm. Infatuated with her, the Composer agrees to the combination of opera and comedy. The Music-Master calls everyone together. The Composer greets his teacher with a happy hymn to music, but at the last minute catches sight of the vulgar comics and runs out in horror.
Ariadne, Princess of Crete, has been abandoned by her lover Theseus on the Island of Naxos. She is watched over by three nymphs -- Naiade, Dryade and Echo -- who marvel at her sorrow as she sleeps. Ariadne wakes and prays for death. Fearing that Ariadne has lost her mind from grief, Zerbinetta and her friends, Harlequin, Scaramuccio, Truffaldino and Brighella, try to cheer her with dance and song. Zerbinetta tries to teach Ariadne her philosophy of life, which is always to be in love with and faithful to one man, while at the same time welcoming the next. She has carried on this way with a whole list of men, she says, and sometimes with more than one man at a time. Uninterested, Ariadne retires to her cave.
Ariadne’s three nymphs return, announcing the approach of a beautiful god. It is Bacchus, who has just escaped from the clutches of the enchantress Circe. Ariadne is drawn out of her cave at the sound of his voice and, not seeing him, believes him to be the messenger of Death. But when Bacchus appears before her, she believes for an instant that he is Theseus. She realizes her mistake, and the two fall in love. Ariadne’s sorrow is transformed by Bacchus, and Zerbinetta is glad to see the princess taking her advice after all.
Courtesy of Pittsburgh Opera