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Zerbinetta


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(Strauss: Ariadne auf Naxos). Sop. Leader of the commedia dell'arte troupe which has been hired to entertain the guests of one of the richest men in Vienna. His Major‐domo informs them that they will perform after the opera, Ariadne auf Naxos, has been given. This causes consternation in the opera company, where the Music Master and the Composer, who has written the opera, are upset by the thought of the vulgar antics of the comedians following on their holy art. The Composer finds Zerbinetta attractive, and she tries to explain to him that he has portrayed the character of Ariadne incorrectly—no woman wants to die just because her lover has deserted her. Zerbinetta's motto is: off with the old, on with the new! The Major‐domo causes further chaos when his master decides that, in order to finish the entertainment in time for a firework display, the two companies will have to perform simultaneously. The Composer is devastated, but it doesn't really worry Zerbinetta. She feels that there are many dull passages in the opera and the audience will be bored, so she and her company will liven them up. She summons her troupe with a loud whistle. During the performance of the opera, she has a long scene with Ariadne, in which she does her best to prove to her that she must forget about death, and must look for a new love—she succeeds, for Ariadne accepts Bacchus and prepares to leave with him. Arias: Ein Augenblick ist wenig—ein Blick ist viel (‘A moment is nothing—a look is much’); Grossmächtige Prinzessin (‘Most gracious Princess’—this very long aria (it lasts over eleven minutes) was shortened and lowered a whole tone by Strauss when he devised the second version of the opera in 1916). Created (1912) by Margarethe Siems, who had created Chrysothemis in Elektra and the Marschallin in Der Rosenkavalier; (1916) by Selma Kurz.

If the role of Zerbinetta is to be the delight which its composer intended, it requires a coloratura soprano of great accuracy, stamina, and warmth—it is more than a soubrette role. Among notable Zerbinettas have been Hermine Bosetti (a Berlin soprano whom Hofmannsthal wanted for the première, and who sang in the first version), Maria Ivogün, Selma Kurz, Alda Noni, Janine Micheau (the first French Zerbinetta, 1943), Rita Streich, Reri Grist, Mimi Coertse, Sylvia Gestzy, Silvia Greenberg, Edita Gruberova (who for some years made the part her own and sang it all over the world), Ruth Welting, Sumi Jo, Gianna Rolandi, Diana Damrau, and Marlis Petersen.

Subjects: Opera.


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