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Highlights from Arabella this week 12/19 on the The Lyric Stage

This week we have selctions from Arabella, by Richard Strauss, with the libretto by Hugo von Hofmannsthal.

Arabella premiered in 1933, and the story has been something of a problem as the two collaborators had not yet completely worked out the the final two thirds of the opera when Hofmannsthal 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 perhaps 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. Enter Mandryka, a loving, wealthy suitor. Arabella instantly falls in love and agrees to marry him. But her happiness is threatened by misunderstanding and deception. Her sister Zdenka loves Matteo who is in love with Arabella, and to capture Matteo for herself, Zdenka pretends to be Arabella and seduces him. 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.

The selections are from a 1957 studio recording. Lisa Della Casa and George London head the cast with Sir George Solti (or Georg Solti as he was then known) conducting the Vienna State Opera Orchestra.

Lisa Della Casa sang throughout Europe from the late 1940's to the early 1970's. She appeared during 15 seasons (1953-68) at the Metropolitan, excelling there as everywhere in Strauss and Mozart operas. She once asked Rudolf Bing to sing some Puccini. He refused. There were few singers like her for Strauss and Mozart operas, he said, but lots of Puccini sopranos.

Most critics and fans consider Arabella her signature role.



Mike Harrah is host of The Lyric Stage, which airs Sundays at 8 pm.