Arabella with Fleming and Hampson

Thomas Hampson and Renée Fleming teamed up for Strauss’ Arabella at the 2014 Salzburg Osterfestspiel.  The production is directed by Florentine Klepper and it’s set late 19th/early 20th century and is conventional in many ways though there are a few interesting touches.  There may be more than a few but video director Brian Large focusses quite relentlessly on the singers 99% of the time so it’s hard to tell.  I noticed a few things.  The hotel set in Act 1 is multi-room but it’s very rare that we see other than the room the principal action is in so who knows what might have been going on.  There’s a use of body doubles during the Act 2 duet to create a sort of “portrait” of Mandryka and Arabella that broods over the stage for the rest of the act.  The fortune teller reappears with the “trouble” card during the “key” scene.  The whole Fiakermilli episode is difficult to interpret because the video gives such a fragmentary view of it.  There’s certainly a couple of suggestive giant dolls.  Otherwise this scene just comes off as pretty crude and lame.  I suspect that there may be much going on here that isn’t on the video.  This all tends to reinforce the weaknesses of the second half of Act 2 and the start of Act 3 which certainly are not Strauss and von Hofmannsthal’s best work.

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Sister swap

Richard Strauss’ Arabella is a bit of a peculiarity.  The music is top notch Strauss and the libretto is by von Hofmannsthal so it ought to be quite superb.  It doesn’t quite get there though.  It’s hard not to think that if von Hofmannsthal had lived a little longer he would have tightened up the libretto.  Act 1 works fine but Acts 2 and 3 seem rather contrived and could definitely use a few cuts.  I’m not sure that the whole Fiakermilli thing works either.  It’s almost as if Prince Orlofsky’s party mislaid Johann and found Richard by accident.  That said there is some very beautiful music.  Aber der Richtige, wenn’s einem gibt is going straight onto my list of top soprano duets.

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