World premiere: Chamber Stage of Bolshoi Ballet and Opera theatre, Moscow, Russia
Libretto by Hugo von Hofmannsthal Second version (1916)
Conductor of the premiere: Alexei Vereschagin Stage Director: Hans-Joachim Frey Set Designer: Viktor Volsky Costume Designer: Maria Volskaya Lighting Designer: Vladimir Ivakin
In the house of a rich man, preparations are in progress for the performance of a new opera seria, “Ariadne auf Naxos”. The major-domo enters to inform the music master that immediately after the opera an Italian comedy will be performed, followed by a fireworks display in the garden. The outraged music master replies that the composer, his young pupil, will never tolerate that, but the major-domo is unimpressed by his objections and leaves. When the composer appears, hoping for a last-minute rehearsal, a disdainful servant tells him that the musicians are still playing dinner music. Suddenly the tenor rushes from his dressing room, arguing with the wigmaker. The prima donna furiously comments on the presence of the comedy troupe and their leading lady, Zerbinetta. In the middle of the confusion, the major-domo returns with an announcement: in order for the fireworks to begin on time, the opera and the comedy are to be performed simultaneously.
Ariadne is shown abandoned by her former lover, Theseus, on the desert island of Naxos, with no company other than the nymphs Naiad, Dryad, and Echo. Ariadne bewails her fate, mourns her lost love, and longs for death. Zerbinetta and her four companions from the burlesque group enter and attempt to cheer Ariadne by singing and dancing, but without success. Zerbinetta tells Ariadna to let bygones be bygones and insists that the simplest way to get over a broken heart is to find another man.
The nymphs announce the arrival of a stranger on the island. Ariadne thinks it is Hermes, the messenger of death, but it is the god Bacchus, who is fleeing from the sorceress Circe. Bacchus eventually falls in love with Ariadne and promises to set her in the heavens as a constellation. Zerbinetta returns briefly to repeat her philosophy of love: when a new love arrives, one has no choice but to yield.