In a 1950s Italian studio, two different films are being made: a burlesque comedy and a serious opera by the Composer, which tells the story of Greek myth Ariadne auf Naxos.
However, chaos breaks out when it is announced that, there isn’t time and money to shoot both films, so they must merge into one!
The despairing Composer refuses to allow any changes to his masterpiece, until his Music Master points out that he won’t get paid unless he accepts the situation. The opera’s score must be cut, and both lead singers – the Prima Donna and Tenor – urge the Composer to slash the other’s part rather than their own. Meanwhile, leader of the comedians Zerbinetta has her own ideas about the plot. When she turns on the full force of her charm, the Composer agrees…
Ariadne has been abandoned on the island of Naxos by her lover Theseus, and longs for death. Zerbinetta and the troupe of comedians try to cheer her up. Eventually, she addresses Ariadne directly, insisting that all the broken-hearted heroine needs to solve her problems is a new lover.
Three nymphs announce the arrival of a stranger. Ariadne thinks it is Hermes, the messenger of death, but it is the god Bacchus. He is smitten with Ariadne, who agrees to follow him to the realm of death to search for Theseus. However, they fall passionately in love, and Zerbinetta, proven correct, returns to have the last word: “When a new god comes along, we’re dumbstruck.”