Richard Strauss' music may take some getting used to at first, but I have always found it so sublime and thought-provoking. I like Arabella a lot, Der Rosenkavalier is my favourite Strauss opera, and other favourites are Elektra, Salome and Ariadne Auf Naxos.This production is gorgeous, with exquisite costume and set design, and the fact the DVD is as excellent as it is with such clarity in the sound and picture quality makes it even more so.
Strauss' score is one of his most gentile, and the orchestral playing has such power and beauty. Christian Thielmann's conducting is appropriately sensitive. Staging is also wonderful, especially in the act three duet between Arabella and Mandryka, which is the personification of perfection really.
This Arabella has superb performances throughout. Perhaps not the definitive interpretations, for example I think Lisa Della Casa is the ultimate Arabella and Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau for Mandryka, but they didn't need to be to make an impression. And an impression they did. Kiri TeKanawa, looking radiant and younger than her 50 years, is simply wonderful, exuding an intelligently used voice and a youthful yet mature stage presence.
Wolfgang Brendel makes his character debut as Mandryka, and is every bit as good. In fact coming from a fan of his Papagaeno, I have yet to see him this good. Marie McLaughlin brings a lot of passion to the trouser role of Zdenka, and Helga Dernesch is suitably animated.
But the two best support performances belong to Donald McIntyre, who is suitably conniving as Arabella's father but manages to bring a lot of depth to it, and Natalie Dessay whose colouratura is thrilling and she nearly steals the show in the second act.
Overall, gorgeous and just excellent. 10/10 Bethany Cox
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