Lisa Della Casa sings Arabella this week on The Lyric Stage
Arabella was one of Della Casa's signature roles.
Set in Vienna in 1860, Arabella premiered in 1933, and has been something of a problem as the two collaborators, Richard Strauss, who wrote the music, and the librettist, Hugo von Hoffmanstahl, had not yet completely worked out the the final two thirds of the opera when Hoffmanstahl suddenly died. That has led to one of those situations in which unfinished plot elements means parts and pieces are sometimes shifted around, and is probably the reason why it is not performed as much as other Strauss operas.
The beautiful but proud Arabella is the daughter of the Waldner family, who face financial ruin unless Arabella marries a rich husband. But Arabella hopes to marry for love, not money, and rejects suitor after suitor. But when Mandryka, a loving, wealthy suitor unexpectedly appears, her happiness with him is threatened by misunderstanding and deception. Her sister Zdenka pretends to be Arabella and seduces Matteo one of Arabella's admirers. Mandryka gets wind of it, and thinking Arabella is having one last fling is enraged, and Arabella's love match is is about to fall apart. Duels are threatened, but all gets sorted out.
It can be confusing, but the music is some of Strauss' best, and tonight we have the finest Arabella of her time, Lisa Della Casa, in what became her signature role among the many others in which she excelled from the early 1940's into the early 1970's. Hilde Guden is her sister Zdenka, and George London Mandryka. Otto Edelman is Graf Waldner, the father of the family, his wife Adelaide is Ira Malaniuk, and Matteo is Anton Dermosa. George Solti conducts the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra.