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Dutch National Opera / Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra / Marc Albrecht

Arabella

  • Type SACD
  • Label Challenge Classics
  • UPC 0608917268621
  • Catalog number CC 72686
  • Release date 05 September 2015
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About the album

Arabella is an opera about change, a light comedy with a bittersweet edge. Richard Strauss asked his librettist and long-term collaborator Hugo von Hofmannsthal for a ‘second Rosenkavalier. In many ways he got just that, though Arabella is resolutely more down to earth than its rococo predecessor. The Waldner family has hit hard times and marrying off their daughters has therefore become their sole aim. While Arabella readily embraces her future, her story nonetheless touches on fundamental concerns about the irrevocable passage of time and humankind’s shared vulnerability. Those issues eerily played out in the opera’s gestation and performance history. Not only would it become Strauss and Hofmannsthal’s final collaboration due to
the latter’s untimely death, but the opera would also see the light of day in a significantly darker world than the one in which it was conceived. Alone, Strauss honoured his late friend by completing Arabella, whose blithe optimism first came to the stage in 1933, at the beginning of another dark era in history.

Background
Count Waldner, a retired cavalry officer, has fallen on hard times. He and his wife Adelaide and their two daughters are staying in a hotel in Vienna, where, Waldner hopes, his attractive elder daughter Arabella can be fixed up with a wealthy husband and thus save the family from financial ruin. They pass off the younger daughter Zdenka as a boy (‘Zdenko’), as it would be too costly to properly outfit two young women of their standing. Zdenka now leads a ‘gender-neutral’ existence.
    Meanwhile, three Viennese noblemen are vying for Arabella’s hand. But she strings them along, even as her family’s financial woes pile up. Her father loses his money at cards and her mother secretly pawns her jewelry in order to pay unscrupulous fortune-tellers to predict a bright future.
    Time passes, Carnival is nearly over and the management of the Waldner’s hotel threatens them with eviction unless they settle their accounts. Arabella has given herself until midnight to choose between her three suitors.

Act I − In the Waldners’ rented, but unpaid-for, hotel suite.
Countess Adelaide consults a fortune-teller, who predicts that Arabella will soon marry a mysterious foreigner, but the road will not be free of obstacles.
    Zdenka hopes instead that Arabella will marry the young officer Matteo. But Arabella has given him the cold shoulder since making the acquaintance of the three counts. In desperation Matteo takes Arabella’s younger ‘brother’ into his confidence and threatens, in keeping with Viennese fashion, to commit suicide. Zdenka is secretly in love with him, and to prevent him for carrying out his threat, she writes him a daily love letter supposedly signed by Arabella. Matteo believes Arabella loves him, but is thrown off by her cool manner whenever they happen to meet. Every day he brings roses to her suite.
    For Arabella, Matteo was no more than a fling. She takes, as usual, little notice of his roses upon returning from her stroll along the Ring. But an unexpected encounter does catch her fancy: a dark and handsome stranger eyed her as she entered the hotel. Now there’s someone she’d like to receive flowers from! Zdenka tries in vain to put in a good word for her ‘best friend’ Matteo with her sister.
    One of the three counts, Elemer, arrives. He considers himself a shoe-in for Arabella’s affections and invites her for a sleigh ride. Arabella accepts under the condition that ‘Zdenko’ join them. Looking out of her window, she catches another glimpse of the mysterious newcomer.
    The stranger is Mandryka, the nephew of a comrade of Count Waldner from his cavalry days. Waldner had written to his old and extremely wealthy friend with an account of his dire straits, and included a photograph of his daughter Arabella. The old man has since died, but his heir, the young Mandryka, is at once smitten with her upon seeing the portrait. He has left his country estate and come to Vienna.
    Waldner is surprised not to see his old friend but the man’s nephew. The ensuing events appear to Waldner as a dream: Mandryka asks then and there for Arabella’s hand, before he has even laid eyes on her. On top of it he dangles a well-filled purse in front of his prospective father-in-law. They decide to meet later that evening at the Coachmen’s Ball.
    ‘Zdenko’ urges Matteo to go to the ball as well, where he is to receive another love letter from Arabella. Meanwhile Arabella is fraught with anxiety over having to choose a husband this very night. She tries to banish her apprehension with even more foreboding thoughts: ‘A ride down the Hauptallee – until it takes my breath away...’ 

Act II − The same evening. At the Coachmen’s Ball. In a small alcove off the ballroom.
Arabella is introduced to Mandryka. The young and aristocratic urbanite and the not-so-mondaine country landowner are instantly attracted to one another. She is prepared to leave Vienna and follow him. She has but one request: ‘I'd like to dance and take my leave of my girlhood, only for an hour.’ Mandryka chats with her parents while Arabella bids the three counts farewell.
    Then Mandryka sees Zdenko hand Matteo a key and an invitation to visit Arabella in her suite that night. In reality it is Zdenka who will receive Matteo in the hotel room. But Mandryka is mad with jealousy and raises a commotion, cursing Arabella in front of the other guests. Count Waldner insists they return to the hotel at once.

Act III – In the hotel.
Matteo has made love to Zdenka in the dark, believing in the throes of his passion that it is Arabella. When, in the hotel lobby shortly thereafter, he bumps into the real Arabella, who has just returned from the ball, he is flabbergasted – all the more so because of her frosty manners. They quarrel. Just then her parents, Mandryka and the three counts show up.
    Mandryka is convinced of his low opinion of her, and believes her infidelity is confirmed. Arabella in turn is hurt by his accusation; the atmosphere is one of indignation and misery. The code of honour requires Matteo and Mandryka to resolve the conflict in a duel.
    But then Zdenka enters, no longer in disguise, and confesses that it was she who seduced Matteo. Arabella is moved by her sister’s overwhelming love. 
    Trying to unravel his feelings for Arabella and for his ‘best friend’, Matteo struggles to come to grips with the events of the previous night. Mandryka does his best to bring Matteo and Zdenka together in the hope that Arabella will then forgive him.
    Arabella puts off all further talk until the next day, which Mandryka takes as a sign he has lost her forever. But after a moment of reflection, Arabella returns and cements their engagement by handing him a glass of water – a traditional symbol in his country – with the words: ‘in grief and joy, in injury and forgiveness!’

Challenge albums nominated for Edison Classical

19-10-2016

image Three of our Challenge Classics are nominated for a Classical Edison 2016. Congratulatons to soprano Anna Lucia Richter, the Ebonit Saxophone Quartet and the Dutch National Opera/Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra! More information about the Edison Classical awards!

Comments

A. Bahbahani

May 10th 2017 11:02
Pity this wasn't recorded for release on DVD.

Yasser sharaf

December 16th 2015 15:56
Why isn't this production available as DSD download?? I think it is worth and most of challenge's recordings are available as thus on nativedsd.com

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19-10-2016 Edison Nomination
01-03-2016 Fono Forum
17-12-2015 Luister
17-09-2015 Het Parool
11-09-2015 Trouw

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