Although Rinuccini's libretto survives, the greater part of Monteverdi's music for the opera, originally performed in Mantua in 1608, has been lost. All that remains is Arianna's lament, a solo aria which Monteverdi published separately in 1623. Goehr sets most (but not all) of the original libretto, (which is based on the classical story of Ariadne and Theseus from Ovid's Heroides), preserving the lament but interspersing it with choral episodes. The orchestration is contemporary, including contrabassoon, saxophone, Akai sampler and electric guitar, as is the harmonic language.
The composer wrote in the programme notes of the premiere 'It was surely an act of faith - if not of folly - for me to choose Rinuccini’s old Arianna libretto, when I could barely make out the meaning of the words. Yet I knew it was right for me'. Critics tended to agree more with the first part of this statement. The review in the Musical Times for example commented ' setting imitates Monteverdi, but feels unnatural. The opera reached its nadir in Goehr's setting of the great surviving fragment itself the harmonic implications of Goehr's bass-line distortions destroyed the dramatic build-up' Meanwhile, Opera News called it a "waste of mezzo Susan Graham's talent in the title role" and "perfunctory."
A recording of the opera, with Ruby Philogene in the title role, was issued in 1998.