Ariadne auf Naxus consists of a prologue and one act: the opera. The prologue is based on the comedy Le bourgeois gentilhomme by Molière. The theme of the opera is taken from the experiences of the mythological figure Ariadne on the Greek island of Naxos.
On the remote island of Naxos, Ariadne mourns her beloved Theseus. Zerbinetta and her colleagues try to cheer her up, but are unable to change her mind. Then the arrival of the young god Bacchus is announced. Ariadne thinks he is the god of the underworld and is willing to follow him. Ultimately, both give in to their love for each other.