On Thursday, the Israel Opera presents the first fully staged production of Richard Strauss' Ariadne on Naxos in Israel. Bowing to the conservatism of the local audience, the country's only opera house usually schedules nearly entire seasons on works by Mozart, Verdi and Puccini. But the Israel Opera also mixes in more contemporary composers, such as Richard Strauss (1864-1950). His Rosenkavalier was a huge success last year, and as result, Ariadne an opera within an opera, was scheduled. Unlike Rosenkavalier with its bombastic orchestra and larger- than-life sets, this is a one-act opera for 17 soloists, accompanied with a chamber orchestra of only 34 musicians. Soloists are a mixture of international artists and Israelis. Some of the soloists are already familiar to local audiences from Rosenkavalier, since Strauss pieces demand specialized voices, such as that of Stephanie Houtzel and Chen Reiss. "We chose this particular production of one of Strauss' most popular operas because of its visual beauty," says the Opera's artistic director, Michael Ajzenstadt. The production in its current form arrives from Barcelona, where it was presented at the Gran Teatre del Liceu. Ariadne examines the place of art in general and that of opera in particular, issues of particular concern to Strauss. Following the April 20 and 30 performances, a discussion entitled Talkback Opera will take place at the second floor foyer. There the audience will be able to put their questions to the production participants. Backstage tours will be offered on April 23, 30 and May 1 at 7 p.m.