Ariadne on Naxos

I was at Kadıköy Süreyya Opera House for the first time. It is one of the rare buildings about art in Istanbul. I love its decoration very much – stairs, chandeliers, frescos on the ceiling and on the walls… It is definitely one of the most noteworthy and beautiful buildings in Istanbul. It was built by Süreyya İlmen Pasha as a theatre, opera and ball room in 1927. The building was rather used as a movie theatre until it underwent a functional restoration and reopened as an opera house by the end of 2007. Now, the opera house is mainly known as the home of Istanbul State Opera and Ballet.

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I was there to watch an opera named Ariadne auf  Naxos in German and subtitled in Turkish.  Richard Strauss’ Ariadne auf Naxos is directed by Mehmet Ergüven and conducted by Raoul Grüneis.

I’ll start my critique with the stage decor. According the plot, setting must be the house of the richest man in Vienna, but it is just a stair-like mess. At first I did not take care much for it, because the first act of the opera is just like a prologue. So, I thought that in the second act I could see more suitable decor for Ariadne auf Naxos, but unfortunately I did not. Stage decor in the second act are worse than it is in the first act. Second act sets on an island, but İsmail Dede – stage designer – still uses same stair-like mess and also puts two absurd plinths. Oh, and then this red square! It landed into the middle of the stage with the help of the moving cables, but I cannot still understand what was it.

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Costumes are also pitiful. I think Gülay Korkut – costume designer – did some of the characters’ costumes more carefully than the others’. Costumes in the first act of the opera are quite adequate but the costumes in the second act are just sloppy, although the second act is more important. The horrible mistake may be Ariadne’s high-heeled shoes on an island. In addition to that, Hüseyin Likos’ (Bacchus) attached muscles only look funny.

Nonetheless, soloists’ performance is good. Especially Ayşe Ünal Sezerman’s (Ariadne) and Hüseyin Likos’ performance are not bad but a little overblown. The most striking performance is Nesrin Gönüldağ’s (Composer). With her clear and smooth voice she can perform in bigger roles. I must also mention Ahmet Baykara’s (Dance master) magnificent performance. He is not only singing but also acting on the stage and this makes his performance unforgettable. I do not understand why, but our opera singers generally just sing, do not act at the same time. They get onto the stage and sing while walking. If they stand still, only then their arms and hands start moving. I even saw for the first time Dilruba Bilgi (Zerbinetta) sings while she is crouching all the time without any trace of facial expression. Production teams actually have people who are responsible for gestures, just like Neslihan Öztürk in Ariadne auf Naxos, but unfortunately I can say that one fails to see their works in this opera.

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I think Raoul Grüneis and his orchestra were the saviours of this opera. All the compositions are amazing and all the musicians play those lovely melodies in harmony. You can close your eyes and just listen them. (Most probably you will or at least want to do that when you see the opera) The saddest part is that the invisible orchestra remained invisible as usual; only the conductors get on the stage to get applauded at the end of the opera. I think it is just unfair that musicians always take the backseat, even when the singers do a half-baked job. In this case, I think music of Ariadne auf Naxos is more admirable that the show. I want to congratulate all the musicians, the invisible heroes of Ariadne auf Naxos from here once more.

As the last point, Zerbinetta and her fellows are introduced in the prologue as the most brilliant dance company in the world, so I thought that they may be ballet dancers from İstanbul State Ballet; but obviously it was just my great expectation.

There is no need of another word to be uttered for this opera. Amazing music but terrible set design, perfunctory costumes, overblown performances… a waste of time. I do not recommend this opera to anyone, but still, it is your choice.

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