After all the discussions about women on the podium that have cropped up in the last few years, props to Glimmerglass for putting Kathleen Kelly at the wheel. Even working a reduced score with scaled-down orchestra (this theater’s pit being only so big), it’s a monster piece of noise-making that must be tricky for that size a house. Apart from a couple of points where the balance skewed a bit, Kelly kept the orchestra’s sound in shape, surfed the score’s nuances, and let the singers be heard. More big conducting gigs for her, please.
Finally, in keeping with director Francesca Zambello's chosen setting, and presumably also as a way of heightening the divide between "high" art and "low" as represented in the work, everything is performed in English except for the Ariadne opera seria. As with last year's King for a Day (and next year's Magic Flute), the job of translating Hofmannsthal's not uncomplicated libretto fell to Kelley Rourke, Glimmerglass's dramaturg and supertitles ninja. Rourke manages to write singable verse, adhere to the intentions of the libretto and of the score without being slavish, and make it come out both musical and funny (when it needs to be), and contemporary as the production’s premise requires. (“It is quite obvious to me / that you’ve gone off your meds,” sings the Wigmaster at the Tenor in the Prologue.) At times the German/English juxtapositions play off each other, as in “Too many nights alone can really take a toll!”/”Toll, aber weise….” Clever.