The 35 Festival Internacional de Música de Canarias (FIMC) [35th International Music Festival of the Canary Islands] opens with a concert opera on Thursday, 10 January at 8:00 pm in Auditorio de Tenerife Adán Martín. The concert will be performed again on Saturday, 12 January at the same time in Auditorio Alfredo Kraus in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria.  The piece chosen is none other than Richard Strauss’s "Ariadne auf Naxos", to be performed by  Orquesta Sinfónica de Tenerife under the baton of its conductor Antonio Méndez, and a cast of voices featuring sopranos Ricarda Merbeth and Brenda Rae, tenors Roberto Saccá plus the Canarian singers Juan Antonio Sanabria, Anelio Gibrán, Elisandra Melián and Manuel Gómez Ruiz, among others.

The opening concert was presented today in an informative event that included the participation of the local minister for Tourism, Culture and Sport of the Government of the Canary Islands, Isaac Castellano; the island director for Culture of Tenerife Cabildo, José Luis Rivero; the event’s director, Jorge Perdigón; the conductor of Sinfónica, Antonio Méndez; and Belén Machado, head of Fundación Cepsa in the Canarias, which contributes to the concert and the introductory talks programmed in the festival.

Regarded as one of the most beautiful operas of the German repertoire, the concert is an opportunity to look into the world created by Strauss – a satire of high society, an insight into Renaissance’s patronage and opera itself, breaking of social hierarchies which are radically opposed as the outlandish characters of commedia dell’arte mingle with the famous and dazzling opera stars.  Because "Ariadne auf Naxos" is an opera within an opera, a unique case with impressive music.

It is produced by the festival, organized by the Government of the Canary Islands with  the collaboration of Fundación Cepsa, which also contributes to the introductory talks scheduled which are by musician and speaker Ricardo Ducantenzeiler. Those who wish to learn more about this production can come to the talk that is taking place an hour before the concert (7:00 pm) at the Auditorios.

Sinfónica de Tenerife, committed to the Festival as ever, is in charge of opening the event. For the first time, Antonio Méndez will be conducting his orchestra and a spectacular cast of ten singers. Ariadne and Zerbinetta will be performed by Ricarda Merbeth and Brenda Rae; Bacchus is played by Roberto Saccá; tenor Juan Antonio Sanabria has the role of Brighella; baritone Anelio Gibrán plays Harlekin; tenor Manuel Gómez Ruiz is Scaramuccio; bass José Coca plays Truffaldino; and the three nymphs, Dryad, Naiade and Echo are played by Mª Luisa Corbacho (mezzo), Elisandra Melián (soprano) and Svetla Krasteva (soprano).

Tickets are available at www.festivaldecanarias.comand the usual platforms of both Auditorios.

About 'Ariadne auf Naxos'

"Ariadne auf  Naxos", with score by Strauss and libretto by Hugo von Hofmannsthal, was initially written in one single act, which came after the performance of Molière’s play "Le Bourgeois gentilhomme" ("The Bourgeois Gentleman"), for which Strauss wrote the incidental music, a divertimento. This is how it was premiered in the German city of Stuttgart in 1912, as well as in other cities.

Ariadne feels abandoned by Theseus in Naxos, after she helped him out of the labyrinth when he killed the Minotaur in Crete. Some nymphs watch her sleep and feel sorry for her fate. When Ariadne realises Theseus has deserted her, she evokes him and wishes he was dead. In the meantime, the comedians unsuccessfully try to entertain her to help her stop thinking about such disturbing issues, but she gets angry and leaves. Suddenly, the nymphs announce the arrival of a ship that brings the god Bacchus, who has managed to flee from Circe. Ariadne mistakes him for death and is ready to let herself be taken by her fatal fate. Then, she thinks it is Theseus who has come back for her until Bacchus shows his divine nature and carries her to heaven.

The fact is audiences were confused by this game that mixed commedia dell’arte and the classic myth of Ariadne, banished by Theseus to the isle of Naxos, where she curses her unhappy fate. This reaction finally convinced the writer who decided to prepare a prologue to explain the game that followed. Strauss did it reluctantly and also had long arguments with Hofmannsthal, but eventually they both agreed to add the prologue and Molière’s play was definitely ruled out. This new version of Ariadne was premiered in Vienna in 1916 and was hugely successful. This is how it has been performed ever since.

The two Viennese creators explore the definition of loneliness in female characters as well as fate, something already dealt with by Mozart and Lorenzo da Ponte, another legendary key pair in the history of music as musician and librettist with titles like "Le nozze di Figaro" and "Così fan tutte".

Stage manager Christof Loy, who also took care of it at London’s Covent Garden, points out the relationship with the prologue as it “has to do with a philosophical art manifesto, about how it should be done and under which circumstances, which different influences artists use. However, the single act after the prologue has to be something else, it is about how we grow, how our feelings and outlook on the world change, and they don’t talk about it using the sarcastic resources of the prologue ".

Secrets of the success of this opera

The secrets of the success of this opera may be related to the treatment of music, so subtle, so modern and at the same time, so classic. "The structure is completely classic but this is an opera for virtuosos, for musicians to enjoy themselves in the pit”, the late Spanish conductor Jesús López Cobos said. In his opinion, Strauss did away with that Wagnerian obsession for a huge orchestra, which he shared in other works like "Elektra" and other titles. "He made the best of chamber music. It is a wonderful demonstration of balance between 37 musicians and 17 singers", the conductor stated.

One more good decision was to give the role of composer -a male role- to a woman, an idea of the musician which he included in the prologue. "Strauss believed that the genuine sensitive dimension of the creative effort was given by women rather than men, and among women, by mezzo sopranos, who could express mockery, power and tragedy much better than tenors, for instance", Loy says.

The experiment by this fascinating fruitful pair made up by Richard Strauss and Hugo von Hofmannsthal puts forward a fascinating review of classicism through this opera.  What is most outstanding in "Ariadne auf Naxos" is its surprising freshness, detached from its period. It is a game the creative pair suggested to make classicism even more everlasting and reconfirm Haydn and Mozart as the fathers of modernity.

Thus, half-way between comedy and simplicity, they manage to go deep into what interests them most: defining humankind through music and poetry, in a world that was coming out of the 19th century full of high and utopic expectations: women’s liberation, freedom for humanity, workers, in a plentiful progressive society that eventually succumbed to the Great War.

Other concerts

This is the first event in an ambitious programme that includes 44 concerts to be performed in some twenty different venues across all eight Canary Islands between 10 January and 10 February.  The programme includes great symphony orchestras and camera music groups that will interpret repertoires raging from the 15th century to the present day, including two works commissioned by the Festival.

This year, FIMC includes the participation of pianist María Joao Pires, Filarmónica de Gran Canaria, with the festival production of Verdi’s 'Requiem'; Hamburg Philharmonic conducted by  Kent Nagano and violinist Veronika Eberle;  St. Petersburg  Philharmonic conducted by  Temirkanov, with pianist George Li;  Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen, conducted by David Afkham , Orchestra of Cadaqués, with conductor Anu Tali and pianist Joaquín Achúcarro; Cuarteto Quiroga, the prestigious pianist Martha Argerich;  London Conchord Ensemble;  Orquesta Barroca de Tenerife;  Minsk Chamber Philharmonic, Quantum Ensemble and Jordi Savall with Orquesta Hespérion XXI with the closing concert “The Routes of Slavery, 1444-1888”.