Le Bourgeois gentilhomme with Ariadne auf Naxos
by Hugo von Hofmannsthal and Richard Strauss
One-act divertissement by Hugo von Hofmannsthal with music by Richard Strauss to be performed after Molière’s Le Bourgeois gentilhomme, 1912 version
What we would have liked to do if we had written Ariadne auf Naxos and Le Bourgeois gentilhomme
Molière’s The Bourgeois Gentleman is one of those masterpieces that leave us with the memory of an unforgettable character rather than the impression of uninterrupted action. It is a comédie-ballet, written for the court.
The comedy ends, as is well-known, with a grand ballet watched by M. Jourdain and his guests, set to music by Lully. Instead of this ballet, we have chosen to perform – with no disrespect – a small opera in the old-fashioned manner.
With no disrespect, we were saying: for Molière’s comedy, once again, is more of a frame than a regular play. A great artist is able to make use of less familiar and more composite dramatic forms when circumstances require it.
So if we have allowed M. Jourdain to be the organizer and viewer of a new (and thus problematic) musical divertissement, if we have put Ariadne auf Naxos in the place of the Ballet of the Nations, it was that immortal symbol who convinced and almost authorized us to do so.
Hugo von Hofmannsthal (La revue musicale, IX-X, 1912, 1-3)