Ariadne auf Naxos: Should You Take Your Kids to this Opera?

The Minnesota Opera performed Ariadne auf Naxos in 2015. Watch our Performing Arts Calendar for more family-friendly operas.ariadne auf NaxosThe Minnesota Opera season is starting with Ariadne auf Naxos.  Tickets start at $20 and can be purchased at the links below.

  • Sat. Sept. 26, 2015 at 8pm
  • Thurs. Oct. 1, 2015 at 7:30pm
  • Sat. Oct. 3, 2015 at 7:30pm
  • Sun. Oct. 4, 2015 at 2pm

There are three operas I would consider sharing with my middle grader this season. Ariadne auf Naxos is the first. I’d also take her to The Magic Flute and Rusalka — which is a Little Mermaid story. Children are required to be over the age of six to attend any performance, and some performances are better suited to kids than others.  For instance, I can’t imagine I’d want to take any of my kids to The Shining, which will be performed later this season.

Ariadne falls somewhere in the middle. My friend and I both felt our middle-grade daughters would have really enjoyed this performance. There are mild adult situations and hints of off-scene sex. One character spends a good portion of the first act in lingerie. However, its probably milder than an episode of The Simpsons. What makes it a good starter opera for older children is the physical comedy that is interspersed with more sophisticated comedy.

The first half of Ariadne takes place backstage a performance in which a billionaire has booked both an opera and a comedy troupe for the same night. While the composer and opera singers are incensed that they would have to share their night with lowbrow comedy; while the comedians fear the opera will bore everyone to sleep before they take the stage. To make matters worse, at the last minute, the patron decides the two performances must be combined so the entire show can be finished before his fireworks display. I would recommend the first half of this opera for a child who has attended and enjoyed Children’s Theatre performances that are geared toward middle grade and who is able to enjoy a subtitled movie (or speaks German fluently) – a lot of the best humor will be lost if you can’t keep up with the captioning.

After the intermission the audience gets to see the performance that results from the combined efforts of the two groups. This half could be enjoyed without reading the captioning, however, it is more stereotypical of opera. I would encourage my daughter to lay her head on my shoulder and just enjoy the music and dancing during this portion. I would still expect her to be squirmy by the end. If your child would have a difficult time sitting through an orchestra performance, you may want an exit plan for the second half.

Study Ahead for Ariadne auf Naxos:

This is a performance I believe would be enhanced by studying ahead. The Virginia Opera offers a PDF Study Guide you can download before the show.  There are several YouTube versions of the opera with subtitles. I didn’t like any of them as much as the Minnesota Opera version; and I would not share any of them with my daughter, because I’m certain they would not aid in her understanding or excitement.  This is probably dependent on your child.  You may feel differently after viewing some for yourself.

Two Greek Myths are featured in the story.  Theseus and the Minotaur is the story of how Ariadne ended up on Naxos.  The story of Dionysus and Ariadne is the featured story of the opera.

With this little bit of preparation, I think a middle grade child who is familiar with live stage would really enjoy this opera.

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 I attended the free social media night/final dress rehearsal.  My opinions are based on my experience taking my kids to live performances and entirely my own.

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