At the Festival Académie Published on 27/03/2018
Sabine Devieilhe et Lise Davidsen
© Fabien Monthubert Piergab / DR

Diametrically opposed, the vocal portraits of Zerbinetta and of Ariadne are but a musical illustration of the moral value that Strauss and Hofmannsthal attribute to them. Whereas the coloratura soprano Zerbinetta belongs in a comic register and praises the merits of unfaithfulness and of instability of character, the dramatic soprano Ariadne – faithfulness incarnate –  advocates absolute loyalty. The only common denominator between these two Straussian characters: virtuosity. The strength of the opera Ariadne auf Naxos relies precisely on Strauss and Hofmannsthals’ capacity to illustrate how much the living – “being” or “spectacle” – can be subjected to perpetual transformation.

Ariadne auf Naxos marks the return of Sabine Devieilhe to the  Festival d’Aix-en-Provence who, in 2016 appeared in the guise of Beauty in Il Trionfo del Tempo e del Disinganno.
After having interpreted Somnambule, Lakmé, Olympia and even the Queen of the night, it is now time for her to take possession of a new role : Zerbinetta in
Ariadne auf Naxos.

Zerbinetta’s vocal virtuosity is nothing other than the reflection of her profuse passionate virtuosity… In the commedia dell’arte troupe, which this street entertainer runs masterfully, are four servants with whom she indulges in joyous philandering. Face to face with an inconsolable Ariadne, here we find her reading out the list of her conquests whilst at the same time encouraging Ariadne to follow her example.

Capped with extremely high pitched acrobatic notes, the role of Zerbinetta is an authentic coloratura soprano role suggesting several faces of femininity, sometimes conquering, sometimes conquered. Underneath her appearance of being carefree and capricious, we can ascertain a certain prudishness doubled up on a background of gloom.
The role of Zerbinetta is an opportunity for Sabine Devieilhe to highlight her skills both as a singer and as an actress in an opera in which the satirical style remains constantly in contrast to the heartrending truth of emotions.

During the 1966 Aix Festival, the role of Ariadne was entrusted to Régine Crespin, one of the greatest French sopranos of the time and alongside her, Mady Mesplé sang the role of Zerbinetta.

For the return of Ariadne auf Naxos this summer, it is the Danish soprano Lise Davidsen who will interpret the roles of the Primadonna and of Ariadne. In keeping with the great dramatic sopranos, her powerful voice and her generous singing has what it takes to fill the whole courtyard of the Archevêché.

Zerbinetta’s vocal profile is much closer to baroque virtuosity, whereas that of Ariadne is clearly romantic. Strauss uses a luxuriant orchestra to envelope this voice of a Wagnerian-type heroine. The Wagnerian repertory is in any case not unknown territory for Lise Davidsen who has already explored the Tetrology.

By playing the role of a Primadonna in the prologue, Lise Davidsen plays her own role, that is to say one of a singer… And then the opera begins and it is the Primadonna who sings the role of Ariadne, archetype of the abandoned woman. “Statuette made of plaster” are you telling me ? certainly not…Strauss strongly denies it.


Aurélie Barbuscia
Traduction : Christopher Bayton

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