Opera Scotland

Ariadne on Naxos 1968Hamburg State Opera

Read more about the opera Ariadne auf Naxos

This staging of Ariadne was not considered at the time to be anything special, and was rather elderly. But what stands out with hindsight is the strength of the Hamburg company at the time, when its musical director was Charles Mackerras.

The New York mezzo Tatiana Troyanos spent several seasons at Hamburg at the start of an illustrious career.  Gerhard Unger and Toni Blankenheim were nearing the end of equally distinguished ones.  Most astonishing of all is the fact that Hans Sotin, singing the Dutchman and Orest on other evenings, here performs the brief role of the wig-maker - a true company artist.  Baritone Franz Grundheber, here playing the Lackey, eventually returned to the 2009 Festival, again with the Hamburg company, in the title role of The Flying Dutchman.

The heldentenor playing Bacchus, Ernst Kozub, died young, and is no longer remembered, but according to the memoirs of the record producer John Culshaw, he was, around this time, the favourite to be cast as Siegfried in the famous recording of the Ring conducted by Georg Solti. The job eventually went to the veteran Wolfgang Windgassen.  The American soprano Arlene Saunders spent her career largely in Germany and had a high reputation as a Straussian.  She returned to Britain to sing Senta in the opening season of Opera North, and also sang Minnie at Covent Garden.  Hungarian Sylvia Geszty also sang Zerbinetta at Glyndebourne and Violetta with Scottish Opera.

Opera at the 1968 International Festival

In 1968, the Edinburgh Festival followed its Stravinsky theme of the previous year by concentrating on two composers, Britten and Schubert.  The result was a Festival full of memorable concerts and recitals.   Perhaps the operatic side was slightly uncertain.  Scottish Opera had recently been exploring Albert Herring (taking it to Florence on the company's first foreign tour in May) and now produced Peter Grimes for the first time.  The English Opera Group also brought the most recent of Britten's stage works, the three Parables for Church Performance.  Schubert's operas have always been seen as a problem area of his output, with stagings extremely rare.  Sadly, no full-scale presentation was attempted here, but the Festival did at least mount a memorable concert performance of Alfonso und Estrella.

The visiting company was again from Germany - a third season by the Hamburg State Opera, previously seen in 1952 and 1956.  The original plans included the British premiere of Arden Must Die,  Alexander Goehr's recent adaptation of the anonymous Elizabethan tragedy Arden of Feversham (sometimes claimed to be by Shakespeare), as well as a Scottish premiere for Strauss's Arabella.  In the event, due to the notorious technical restrictions imposed by the antiquated stage facilities of the King's Theatre, at this time the only venue available for opera, the Strauss was quickly dropped., even before the Festival  programme was announced.   Though the Goehr was initially scheduled, along with Fliegende Holländer and Ariadne auf Naxos, by the time booking opened it had been replaced by Elektra - admittedly requiring a large orchestra, but with only one simple set.

Scottish Opera also made its first appearance on the Fringe.   In addition to its excellent Peter Grimes, it gave its first staging of a work by Monteverdi.   The brief comedy, Il ballo delle ingrate, was mounted as a late-night entertainment.

Performance DatesAriadne on Naxos 1968

Map List

King's Theatre, Edinburgh | Edinburgh

30 Aug, 19.00 4 Sep, 19.00 7 Sep, 19.00

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