Metropolitan Opera Broadcast: Arabella
Radio Broadcast of Saturday, April 19, 12 P.M.
Fiakermilli (Laura Aikin) entertains the guests at the annual Coachmen's Ball in Vienna
© Beatriz Schiller 2014
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Music by Richard Strauss
Libretto by Hugo von Hofmannsthal
|| (in order of vocal appearance)
||mezzo, VICTORIA LIVENGOOD
||mezzo, CATHERINE WYN-ROGERS
||soprano, GENIA KÜHMEIER
||tenor, ROBERTO SACCÀ
||soprano, MALIN BYSTRÖM
||tenor, BRIAN JAGDE
||bass-baritone, MARTIN WINKLER
||tenor, MARK SCHOWALTER
||baritone, MICHAEL VOLLE
||tenor, MARK PERSING
||baritone, ALEXEY LAVROV
||bass-bar., KEITH MILLER
||soprano, AUDREY LUNA
||tenor, JEFFREY MOSHER
||bass, TIMOTHY BREESE MILLER
||baritone, SCOTT DISPENSA
||bass, SETH MALKIN
||bar., EARLE PATRIARCO
Conducted by PHILIPPE AUGUIN
The Metropolitan Opera Orchestra
The Metropolitan Opera Chorus
Production: Otto Schenk
Set designer: Günther Schneider-Siemssen
Costume designer: Milena Canonero
Lighting designer: Gil Wechsler
Stage director: Stephen Pickover
Chorus master: Donald Palumbo
Musical preparation: Donna Racik, John
Keenan, Dan Saunders, Jonathan Kelly
|Assistant stage director: Gina Lapinski
German coach: Marianne Barrett
Prompter: Donna Racik
Production a gift of Mrs. Michael Falk
|THE SCENES ||(Vienna, 1860) ||Timings (ET) |
|ACT I||Waldner's hotel suite||12:00–1:10|
|ACT II||A ballroom foyer||1:41–2:28|
|ACT III||Lobby of the hotel ||2:54–3:52|
Host: Margaret Juntwait
Commentator: Ira Siff
Music producer: Jay David Saks
Producers: Mary Jo Heath, Ellen Keel,
Executive producers: Mia Bongiovanni,
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This performance is also being broadcast
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ACT I. Vienna, 1860s. In the Waldners' hotel suite, Countess Adelaide von Waldner consults a Fortuneteller on the financial crisis in her family. As they examine the cards, "Zdenko," the Waldners' "son" — actually their younger daughter, Zdenka, reared as a boy to save the expense of bringing up a second girl — is kept busy warding off creditors. The Fortuneteller predicts a rich marriage for Arabella, beautiful elder daughter of the Waldners. When the older women retire, Zdenka listens to the impassioned pleas of a young officer, Matteo, who asks for help in his courtship of Arabella. He threatens to shoot himself if he cannot rely on his friend "Zdenko." No sooner has he dashed away than Arabella returns from a stroll. Dismissing her companion, she finds gifts from three other suitors, Counts Elemer, Dominik and Lamoral. Though Zdenka secretly loves Matteo, she implores her sister to favor him. Arabella replies that the right man for her has not yet appeared. Elemer arrives to invite Arabella for a sleigh ride. She accepts and goes off to change, not before pointing out to her sister a stranger standing in the street below, looking for her window. Count Waldner saunters in, disgusted with his bad luck at cards and his many bills. As a last resort, he tells his wife, he has sent a photograph of Arabella to a rich old friend and fellow officer, Mandryka. A few moments later, the latter's nephew, also called Mandryka, is announced. The young man has read Waldner's letter, fallen in love with Arabella's picture and journeyed to Vienna in his deceased uncle's place to ask her hand in marriage. Describing his rich estates in Slavonia, he lends Waldner money. As soon as the room is deserted, Arabella reappears, in a melancholy mood. She asks herself why she is so dissatisfied with her suitors. Her thoughts soon turn to the Coachmen's Ball, which she will attend that evening. When Zdenka joins her, the two sisters go off to their sleigh ride.
Matteo and Zdenka (Raymond Very, Bonney)
© Beth Bergman 2014
ACT II. By the grand staircase in the foyer of a public ballroom, Waldner introduces Mandryka to the Countess and Arabella, who recognizes him as the stranger she saw outside the hotel and is overcome with emotion. When they are left alone, Mandryka, also deeply attracted, tells of his young wife who died, of his lands and the Slavonian custom of pledging troth with a glass of water. Arabella returns his declaration of love but asks to say farewell to her girlhood. The coachmen's mascot, Fiakermilli, names Arabella queen of the ball. Elated, Mandryka orders flowers and champagne for everyone but steps aside so Arabella may bid farewell to her suitors Dominik, Elemer and finally Lamoral. As the girl waltzes through the room, she does not notice Matteo, who pleads desperately with Zdenka for some sign of Arabella's professed love. Zdenka presses a key into his hand, telling him it is from Arabella and unlocks the latter's bedroom. Mandryka, overhearing, is appalled. Furious, he drinks recklessly, singing a folk song and flirts with Fiakermilli and the Countess until Waldner brings him to his senses by suggesting they return to the hotel.
Arabella and Elemer (Fleming, Adam Klein)
© Johan Elbers 2014
ACT III. Unaware that Matteo has spent an hour in her room upstairs, Arabella returns from the ball, softly repeating to herself Mandryka's description of his country home. Matteo, trying to leave unnoticed, is amazed to find Arabella in the lobby and cannot understand her cool cordiality, since he believes her to have been in his arms shortly before. Mandryka arrives with the Waldners and, thinking Arabella faithless, provokes Waldner to demand satisfaction. A duel is averted when Zdenka runs downstairs in flowing negligee, confessing she gave herself to Matteo to avert his suicide. Overcome with shame, she threatens suicide herself but is forgiven by her parents and embraced by Matteo. As the others go to their quarters, Arabella bids Mandryka send his servant to her room with a glass of water. He does so and stands in the lobby, wondering how she feels toward him now. Arabella appears at the top of the stairs, water glass in hand, to plight her troth to him anew.
Mandryka (Hans-Joachim Ketelsen) and Arabella (Fleming) in the lobby of the hotel after the ball
© Johan Elbers 2014
Arabella was the sixth and last opera Strauss wrote with the poet Hugo von Hofmannsthal. The plot is laid in the Vienna of 1860, days of happy delusion, when Emperor Franz Joseph and Johann Strauss II were the most popular men in Austria.
The theme of Arabella goes back to one of Hofmannsthal's own stories, "Lucidor" (1910). There the treatment is more meaningful and serious, centering on the emotional conflict of Arabella's sister, the Zdenka of the opera. But in 1927, when Strauss had completed Die Ägyptische Helena and was ready for something new, he asked his partner for an amusing story with plenty of local color, involving real people — in short, another Rosenkavalier. Hofmannsthal decided to blend "Lucidor" with one of his more recent sketches, featuring a Fiakerball (Coachmen's Ball), a favorite social function in the second half of the nineteenth century.
Hofmannsthal never saw the opera on which he had lavished some of his most poetic verse: he died a few days after the libretto's completion, on July 15, 1929. The world premiere took place in Dresden on July 1, 1933. Clemens Krauss conducted, with his wife, Viorica Ursuleac, as Arabella. In the U.S., the opera was not introduced until February 10, 1955, at the Metropolitan Opera, in English. Eleanor Steber sang the title role, with Hilde Gueden as Zdenka and George London as Mandryka, under Rudolf Kempe.
The Met's current Arabella production, directed by Otto Schenk, had its premiere on February 10, 1983, with Kiri Te Kanawa as Arabella, Kathleen Battle as Zdenka and Bernd Weikl as Mandryka, paced by Erich Leinsdorf. The Schenk production's sumptuous designs were by Schenk's frequent collaborator Günther Schneider-Siemssen (sets) and Oscar-winning costume designer Milena Canonero. The Met's 1994 revival of Arabella, which featured Christian Thielemann conducting Te Kanawa, Marie McLaughlin and Wolfgang Brendel, was taped and later telecast.
Barbara Bonney and Renée Fleming as Zdenka and
Arabella in the Met's 2001 revival of Arabella
© Beth Bergman 2014
WHAT TO READ AND HEAR
Among biographies, go for Michael Kennedy's Richard Strauss: Man, Music, Enigma (Cambridge) or Bryan Gilliam's concise but authoritative The Life of Richard Strauss (Cambridge, paperback), avoiding Matthew Boyden's tendentious, inadequately researched Richard Strauss (Northeastern). Strauss's conduct during the Nazi period is examined in Michael Kater's Eight Composers of the Nazi Era (Oxford). Norman del Mar's Richard Strauss: A Critical Commentary on his Life and Works (3 vols., Cornell, out of print), more sympathetic than critical, is admirably detailed. (Arabella is discussed in Vol. II.) A Working Friendship, the riveting composer-librettist correspondence, is out of print. The English National Opera Guide (Riverrun, paperback) includes a libretto; the Cambridge Opera Handbook (paperback) does not, but it examines the work in greater detail. Vocal and orchestral scores are published by Boosey & Hawkes.
Arabella's first studio recording remains the best, thanks to Lisa della Casa's radiant heroine, George London's vital Mandryka and a strong supporting cast, though Georg Solti's conducting occasionally leans toward the brash (Decca, 3 CDs). Fascinating, if flawed in detail and in sound, are live Salzburg performances under Clemens Krauss (Myto) and Karl Böhm (DG, out of print). On DVD, Renée Fleming is at her most gracious in a 2007 Zurich Opera HD recording of Götz Friedrich's staging (Decca), with Franz Welser-Möst conducting crisply. Ashley Putnam is ideally cast as Strauss's heroine in John Cox's Glyndebourne staging (Kultur), conducted by Bernard Haitink. Kiri Te Kanawa is an elegant Arabella on the 1994 telecast of the Met's current staging, beautifully paced by Christian Thielemann; Natalie Dessay, then in the early days of her Met career, is a spectacular Fiakermilli. Still satisfying, despite a lip-synched soundtrack, is the 1977 studio film from Vienna of Otto Schenk's production, warmly conducted by Georg Solti. Gundula Janowitz and Bernd Weikl, both surprisingly effective film actors, are Arabella and Mandryka; deft cameos are contributed by Martha Mödl (Fortuneteller) and Edita Gruberova (a very hearty Fiakermilli). The Met's 1994 videotaping, with Kiri Te Kanawa as the heroine and Christian Thielemann on the podium, is now on DVD (DG); despite a lip-synched soundtrack, the studio taping under Solti, with Gundula Janowitz's warmly passionate Arabella and Bernd Weikl a forceful Mandryka, is more satisfying (Decca, VHS).
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