Saturday, July 11, 2015


Conductor:  Philippe Jordan
Production:  Andreas Dresen

Graf Waldner:  Kurt Rydl
Adelaide:  Doris Soffel
Arabella:  Anja Harteros
Zdenka:  Hanna-Elisabeth Müller
Mandryka:  Thomas J. Mayer
Matteo:  Joseph Kaiser

I'm not sure Strauss' Arabella, streamed live today from the Bayerische Staatsoper, is a great opera.  I'm not sure it matters.  The plot is a bit dicey.  Broke family has two daughters.  To prevent the expense of marrying two daughters, the younger daughter pretends to be a boy.  Complications ensue.

I am truly astounded by the contrast between the Arabella of Renée Fleming, reviewed here, and the Arabella of Anja Harteros.  With Renée it's all in the details, and it can be awkward when the other singers don't follow her lead.

With Harteros it's all in the big picture.  She is in the midst of her colleagues and is always stylistically with them.  It is the sheer scope of her musical vision that separates her from the crowd.  The emotions are large, extending out into the universe.  In general this was Strauss as Wagner.  Big tone.  Excessively big in my opinion.  They brag about how many microphones they have, so balance the orchestra a bit smaller, please.

Thomas J. Mayer was pleasingly rough without becoming violent.  His voice is showing some wear.  The one I would worry about is Zdenka.  Matteo could go postal.

Europeans are accustomed to architectural stage settings by now.  Giant staircases are a common theme.  For me the ending with the giant staircase completely worked.  Arabella and Mandryka in this vision are a bomb waiting to explode.  I'm not sure Mandryka deserves her, but she will bring him an exciting life.  She walks slowly down the long staircase holding her drink and then throws it in his face.  I enjoy Harteros for the power of her phrasing and the power of her acting.

The best opera makes you care about the characters.  Their lives become your life.  There are many paths leading to this conclusion.  For me this was one.

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