From the archives of San Francisco Opera comes a performance of Richard Strauss’ romantic opera Arabella – which premiered at the War Memorial Opera House on October 29th, 1980. It’s to be broadcast tomorrow evening, February 4th, by Classical KDFC.
The recording of this tale of love, mistaken identity and near-catastrophe, stars soprano Kiri Te Kanawa in the title role, with soprano Barbara Daniels as Arabella’s sister Zdenka – forced to take on the identity of a brother in order to help the family finances. Tenor William Lewis is Matteo – the object of Zdenka’s desire – and Swedish baritone Ingvar Wixell is Count Mandryka, a wealthy suitor to whom Arababella is also attracted, much to the relief of her family. The San Francisco Opera Orchestra is led by German conductor Wolfgang Rennert (1922-2012).
The collaboration between Richard Strauss and librettist Hugo von Hofmannsthal produced a number of successes during the first part of the 20th century – Elektra (1909), Der Rosenkavalier (1911) and Die Frau one Schatten (1910) being the most popular. Towards the end of the 1920s, Strauss was keen to repeat the formula, urging von Hofmannsthal to collaborate with him on “a second Rosenkavalier”. Although a degree of tension had existed between the two artists for a number of years prior to this, von Hofmannsthal complied with Strauss’ request and started work on a libretto for Arabella in 1929.
By July, the first act had been completed, and the following two had been provisionally set, but the librettist died suddenly on the 15th of that month, and Strauss was so deeply affected by the loss of his friend and collaborator, that he put the work aside, and didn’t return to it until 1932, leaving the second and third acts as von Hofmannsthal had provisionally written them. Arabella premiered at Semperoper in Dresden in 1933.
Set in Vienna in the 1860s, Arabella tells the somewhat convoluted story of a beautiful girl, whose father expects her to marry for wealth, to prevent the financial ruin of the family. Arabella, however, longs for true love, convinced that she’ll know when the right man comes along. Her father invites a wealthy old army friend of his, Count Mandryka, to visit Vienna, hoping for a match between him and his daughter, but to his surprise, the man who arrives is the old Count’s nephew, having inherited his uncle’s wealth and title following his death.
Arabella does indeed fall for the young Count, as he does for her, but a case of mistaken identity – involving a plot by her sister Zdenka to gain the attentions of a young officer Matteo – almost destroys Arabella’s chances. For a time it appears as though her hopes of love will be dashed, but finally, her sister confesses, and amidst her apologies and explanations, the mystery is finally unraveled.
The broadcast of San Francisco Opera’s 1980 production of Richard Strauss’s Arabella takes place on KDFC – the Bay Area’s classical music radio station – at 8.00 pm on Sunday evening. For tuning frequencies, log on to the the KDFC website, where you can also listen online.
Arabella can be seen on the stage of the War Memorial Opera house for the first time in two decades during San Francisco Opera’s 2018-19 season. Soprano Ellie Dehn will make her debut in the title role, Heidi Stober will sing Zdenka, Brian Mulligan will take the role of Mandryka, Daniel Johansson that of Matteo and Hye Jung Lee will sing the Fiakermilli. Production is by Tim Albery. On the podium will be Chief Conductor of the Dutch National Opera – and renowned Strauss interpreter – Marc Albrecht, making his American operatic debut.
Photos ©Ron Scherl/San Francisco Opera
Information sourced from:
Additional reading: The Guardian