Franz Joseph Haydn
Arianna a Nasso
Cantata for mezzo soprano and orchestra
The composer was born on March 31, 1732 in Rohrau, Lower Austria and died on May 31, 1809 in Vienna. He composed the cantata Arianna a Nasso in the years 1789-90. It was originally composed for voice and keyboard and later orchestrated. It is known that in 1971 Haydn himself accompanied from the keyboard the renowned Italian countertenor Gasparo Pacchiarotti when singing the cantata in London.
The fate of Ariadne, who helped Theseus to overcome the Minotaur and was abandoned by him on the island of Naxos was an inspiration for numerous works of both visual and performing arts. Undoubtedly the most significant work depicting the fate of the abandoned heroine is the opera Ariadne auf Naxos by Richard Strauss, however many composers from the baroque (Monteverdi) to the 20th century (Orff) have also composed their own Ariadne works. And even composers from the lighter side of music like rock singer Eddie Love, Stephen Sondheim (in the musical Frogs) and Led Zeppelin (in his song All My Love) and composers from Argentina to Germany were inspired by the tragic heroine and wrote about her. Writers like Chekhov, Alistair MacLean, Agatha Christie and Franz Wedekind have also referred in a direct or indirect manner to Ariadne in their works.
In Greek Mythology Ariadne is the daughter of the Cretan king Minos and his wife, queen Pasiphae, who herself was the daughter of the Sun titan Helios. According to one of the versions of the myth, Minos attacked Athens because his son was killed there. In order to appease the Cretans, the Athens was supposed to send every nine years a sacrificial party to the Minotaur in Crete, comprising seven young men and seven maidens. In one of these parties the young Theseus vowed to kill the Minotaur. Upon his arriving in Crete, Ariadne fell in love at first sight with Theseus and helped him by giving him a sword and a ball of a red fleece thread that she was spinning. Once he accomplished his deed, Theseus and Ariadne fled to the island of Naxos. According to most versions of the myth, Theseus abandoned the sleeping Ariadne on the island where she was discovered by the god Dionysus who married her. Other versions suggest that it was Dionysus, who chose Ariadne as his bride to be, who ordered Theseus to abandon her on the island.
The musical form of the cantata reflects the dramatic spirit of the text. Haydn concentrated on emphasizing the actual words of the cantata but not only in the two recitatives which precede the two arias in this work. The first aria (Dove sei mio bel tesoro), is reminiscent in may ways of the aria of the countess in Mozart's Le nozze di Figaro (Dove sei i bel momenti) and emphasizes the despair that arrives after the revelation in which the heroine realizes that her lover is not beside her. Ariadne decides to search for her lover yet her agitation increases as she finally discovers that he has indeed left her on the island and thus all she asks for is to die maintaining her dignity.
On May 1, 1761 Haydn signed a contract with the Esterhazy family which marked the beginning of what was a most significant phase for him. After many year of life without any steady work, some improvement occurred at the end of the 1750s when he was appointed music director at the court of Count Morzin, a post which established his name as a composer as well. His appointment as musical director and composer at the court of the Esterhazy family was proof that he enjoyed fame, appreciation and recognition which was why he became responsible for the musical life of one of the most important and rich Austro-Hungarian families. And so between the years 1761-90 he devoted all his time to the musical life in the Esterhazy court. As conductor to the court of Prince Nicolaus Esterhazy, Franz Joseph Haydn used to start composing at seven o'clock in the morning writing an extensive number of works in various genres especially instrumental music and light operas. However, his great love for the human voice resulted also in several dramatic cantatas about women who suffer from unrequited love like Berenice and the cantata that will be performed in this concert. Haydn spent most of the 30 years with the Esterhazy family in Eisenstadt where the family was residing and at the luxurious Esterhazy palace which was built by prince Nikolaus, Haydn's major employer.