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Richard STRAUSS (1864-1949)

Arabella - opera in three acts (1932)
Ashley Putnam … Arabella
John Bröcheler … Mandryka
Gianna Rolandi … Zdenka
Regina Sarfaty … Adelaide
Artur Korn … Count Waldner
Keith Lewis … Matteo
Gwendolyn Bradley … Die Fiakermilli
London Philharmonic Orchestra/Bernard Haitink
Recorded at the 1984 Glyndebourne Festival Opera Season
NVC ARTS/WARNER MUSIC 0630-16912-2 [154mins]


This is a straightforward conventional staging of this, the last collaboration between Hugo von Hofmannsthal and Richard Strauss. (Arabella was world premiered at the Dresden Staatsoper on July 1st 1933.) Julia Trevelyan Oman’s delightful designs make excellent use of all the small Glyndebourne stage – especially for the ballroom setting of Act II where the swirling dancers seen through the doors at the back of the stage give an illusion of great depth and spaciousness. The colourful costumes add splendour to the old world Viennese setting.

Ashley Putnam is nicely cast in the title role although, for me, she cannot dispel the beauty of voice and the charms of the gorgeous Lisa Della Casa (and, to a slightly lesser degree, Kiri Te Kanawa). Putnam sings with style and grace and she is adroit in suggesting her character’s girlish teasing nature and swift mood changes. She is affecting in her Act I aria ‘Aber der Richtige’ in which she dreams of the right man coming and dispelling her doubts. In her final aria when she offers the glass of water to Mandryka signalling her forgiveness for his unfounded accusations. She also shines in her lovely Act I duet with her sister Zdenka (another example of Strauss’s magnificent writing for the soprano voice). Gianna Rolandi is an ideal Zdenka, dressed as a boy because their parents cannot afford the expense of a second daughter and the cause of all the misunderstandings. She very nearly steals the show in Act I.

The character of Mandryka, granted, is boorish yet Bröcheler, although splendidly fiery, when he thinks he has been cheated by Arabella, is rather too stiff and too unsympathetic. His bass-baritone intonation is firm and virile.

The lovesick Matteo duped by Zdenka who is hopelessly in love with him, is very well portrayed by Keith Lewis. Regina Sarfaty as Adelaide is characterful and flirty like her eldest daughter. Arthur Korn is a first class as the dignified father, Count Waldner. Gwendolyn Bradley is nicely coquettish in the cameo coloratura role of Fiakermilli.

Bernard Haitink’s orchestral direction provides an ideal accompaniment to the singers yet allowing a transparency for Strauss’s alluring but complex textures. The dramatic and voluptuous orchestral Prelude to Act III underscoring the characters’ complicated comings and goings makes a fine impact.

Again I have to protest about the laughable lack of documentation with these NVC Arts opera reissues. This DVD does not have a booklet, there’s no synopsis, no notes about composer, opera or artist portraits; and not even a proper cast list, only a track listing on the inside of the box!

A most satisfying production with Putnam well cast in the title role supported by a fine Zdenka in Gianna Rolandi.

Ian Lace



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