Designing Ariadne auf Naxos

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This summer sees the return of Strauss’s beguiling Ariadne auf Naxos. The opera is a Glyndebourne favourite, and has been the most performed of the composer’s works at the Festival.

This production has a very profound connection to Glyndebourne, taking inspiration from the opera house’s history in the 1940s.

In our short film the creative team behind the production share their inspirations for the look of the production’s impressive sets and elegant costumes.

A sense of history

When it came to staging her production of Ariadne auf Naxos, Director Katharina Thoma saw striking parallels with history of Glyndebourne in the opera:

‘I decided to set the opera in a place like Glyndebourne because this initiative to create opera in a private home is just the situation we have in the piece itself.’

The intricate model box for the Aridane auf Naxos sets.

Tasked with translating Katharina’s vision into reality Set Designer Julia Müer carried out extensive research on the period, an delved into Glyndebourne’s past to create a suitably authentic setting:

‘I did a lot of research because I wanted to make sure that this is not just a cliché looking set. I bought a lot of books on English country houses, manor houses and stately homes, and I looked at some photographs here in Glyndebourne at the archive to get really deep into the process of designing’

The interior of Glyndebourne house in 1939, Glyndebourne Archive.

An age of elegance

Costume also plays a key role in evoking the period, and Costume Designer Irina Bartels relished the challenge of recreating the distinctive styles of the 1940s:

‘I think the 40s is a fantastic age to set a work [in] because it’s really elegant, flattering and stately in a way.’

The opera company’s costumes are very classic and conservative. Photo: Alistair Muir.

Irina developed distinct styles for the two rival groups of performers who are constant conflict throughout the opera:

‘We have these two different groups… this serious operatic side and the playful dancers [and] players side. Those groups have lots of similarities: both are bizarre in a way.
‘The operatic side is… much more serious in terms of colour for example, conservative, classic colours which don’t distract from the art.
‘The opposite are the players, they are much more colourful in red, green, pink and stripy patterns.’

The commedia dell’arte troupe wear an array of brightly coloured outfits. Photo: Alistair Muir.

Ariadne auf Naxos is on stage 25 June–27 July 2017

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