Richard Strauss: Arabella
Renée Fleming (Arabella), Julia Kleiter (Zdenka), Morten Frank Larsen (Mandryka), Alfred Muff (Count Waldner), Cornelia Kallisch (Adelaide), Johan Weigel (Matteo), Peter Straka (Count Elmer), Cheyne Davidson (Count Dominik), Morgan Moody (Count Lamoral), Sen Guo (The Fiakermilli), Irène Friedli (A fortune-teller), Thilo Dahlmann (A waiter), Michael Schweizer (Welko), Kaspar Hohler (Djura), Tassilo von Wiedersperg (Jankel)
Felix Breisach (DVD Director), Johannes Müller (DVD Producer), Christoph Hink (DVD Production Manager and Assistant Director), Claudia Blersch (DVD Assistant Stage Director), Susanne Saudan (DVD Lighting), Hansjürg Holliger (DVD Technical Director), Götz Friedrich (Producer), Friedrich Rossipaul (Technical Director), Sebastian Bogatu (Technical Production Director), Jürgen Hoffmann (Lighting Director), Gottfried Pilz and Isabel Ines Glathar (Set and Costume Design), Paul Suter (Stage Manager)
Franz Welser-Möst (Conductor), Chorus of the Opernhaus Zürich, Ernst Raffelsberger (Chorus Director)
A production of the Opernhaus Zürich and Clasart in association with Nippon Hoso Kyokai
Filmed at the Zürich Opera House in June 2007. Directed for DVD by Felix Breisach. Running time: 147 min.
Booklet in English. Subtitles available in English, French, German, Spanish, and Chinese.
Decca ref. #: B0011380-09
Were Richard Strauss alive today to witness the 2007 Zürich production of Arabella, he would enthusiastically applaud the modern translation of his luscious score. Despite vast public belief that Arabella parroted Strauss’ ever popular Der Rosenkavalier (both penned by the same librettist, Hugo von Hofmannsthal), this lyrical comedy has every right to claim distinct stature alongside his other famed Viennese comedy.
The firm foundation of this production, therein, lies with Arabella herself, interpreted skillfully and elegantly by famed Renée Fleming. This role is not a new one to Ms. Fleming for she has previously sung the title role on three separate occasions. Her silky and adroit rendition of this eldest bourgeois daughter brings a respectful calm and happiness to the stage despite brewing mayhem on the horizon. Fleming’s personification of Arabella breathes lessons of hope, trust and honesty to an infinite timeline.
Arabella’s sibling, Zdenka, splendidly sung by Julia Kleiter, provides a contrasting character study, while Kallisch and Muff, performing as parents Adelaide and Count Waldner, amusingly bumble through to the end in entertaining fashion. Fleming’s infatuation with the “stranger”, Mandryka, is sung by resolute Morten Frank Larsen. Supporting cast including Johan Weigel’s Matteo, Arabella’s three suitors and Fiakermilli, the ball’s mascot, tailor this performance with favorable refinement.
This Götz Friedrich production utilizes minimal modern backdrops yet at the same time displays lavish and elegant dress, both signatures of Gottfried Pilz and Isabel Ines Glathar. While the understated scenery cleverly yields musical lyrics to the center stage, it also allows Jürgen Hoffmann’s evocative lighting to augment emotional tension. Artistic highlights are most pronounced during the Coachmen’s Ball and the final scene in the hotel.
Inevitably, audience accolades resound strongest for Fleming and Kleiter during curtain call. Nonetheless, the overall cohesiveness is credited to conductor Franz Welser-Möst who harnesses the energies of all orchestral members magically.
For those relatively unfamiliar with this 1933 Strauss opera, Arabella is normally performed in three acts, but this recording has been condensed into two as originally authorized by the composer in 1939. Neophytes will be flummoxed by lack of screen titles to delineate acts or scenes. One must follow assiduously the track numbers in the booklet.