The Zerbinetta Aria

May Scheider as Zerbinetta in "Ariadne auf Naxos"
May Scheider as Zerbinetta in Ariadne auf Naxos. Bain News Service.

Edita Gruberová – Zerbinetta – Ariadne auf Naxos – Wien 1978 – dir. Bohm

Here is a rolling score of this work. The performance is attributed to soprano Natalie Dessay

Enjoy this marvelous performance by Edita Gruberová of the Zerbinetta aria from Ariadne auf Naxos. Clearly, it is one of the most difficult coloratura soprano solos ever written. She performs it with aplomb, and as you listen carefully you’ll note the many virtuoso passages and why it’s not performed by the faint of heart. 

Johannes Semback (tenor) and_Frieda Hempel (soprano) in a scene from Euryanthe. Dated Jan. 15, 1915.
Johannes Semback (tenor) and_Frieda Hempel (soprano) in
a scene from Euryanthe. Dated Jan. 15, 1915.

This area represents Strauss’ first effort in writing for coloratura soprano. He composed it for Frieda Hempel and hoped she would perform it at the Stuttgart premiere on October 25, 1912. Unfortunately, she was not available. Perhaps she had seen the score.

Richard Strauss (1904). Photograph of Strauss taken in New York during his US tour that year.
Richard Strauss (1904). Photograph of Strauss taken in New York during his US tour that year.

Interestingly, the orchestra that accompanied the premiere was comprised of musicians playing only stringed instruments created by Italian masters. Instruments were borrowed from dealers like Walter Hamma of Stuggart and include the likes of Stradavari, Guarneri, Amati, Bergonzi, and Guadagnini. One imagines a supremely sumptuous beauty of tone.

The premiere was sold out, and luminaries attended from and around Europe and the United States. The chairman of New York’s Metropolitan Board of Directors Otto Kahn attended, as did Sir Edgar and Lady Speyer of New York. One of its earliest performances in the United States took place at the Juilliard School where, at the time, Ernest Hutcheson headed the institution. He had studied piano in 1893 with Bernard Stavenhagen in Weimar. Stavenhagen was Franz Liszt’s last pupil.

Strauss intended to combine Moliere’s comedy, Bourgeois Gentil-Homme, with an opera venue but found it impractical. Rather, His longtime librettist von Hugo von Hofmannsthal was engaged for the project.

Readers may also enjoy our reviews of Ariadne Auf Naxos, the Largo from Dvorak’s New World Symphony, the 50th George London Foundation Competition, and the Punta Gorda Symphony Carnegie Hall Link.

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