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Strauss: Arabella [Fleming, Hampson, Dohmen, Christian Thielemann] [Blu-ray]  [Region A & B]
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'Thielemann gets the best out of the cast especially Renee Fleming with her 'luxury' soprano ' FAZ.
'With Christian Thielemann and the Staatskapelle Dresden the music of Richard Strauss is in best hands.' ORF.
'A terrific Staatskapelle Dresden and the singers are the best you can get.' Das Opernglas.
'Hanna-Elisabeth Muller made vocally a masterly achievment!' Salzburger Nachrichten.
Throughout this highly conversational opera, she remains alive to the nuances of the librettos, listening and reacting to her fellow cast members and keeping herself very much present in the action. --Opera, Jan'15
Top customer reviews
This performance really begs the question of how long, in this day and age, singers can carry on singing the parts of young lovers such as Arabella and Mandryka – especially now that we have HD close-up. I have always been a great admirer of Renee Fleming, but I have to say that at 55 she is too old to be singing Arabella. Of course she looks too old, but the worst part is that she SOUNDS too old for it. She no longer has the smooth, creamy tone that she used to have, nor the security of intonation, and she sounds very strained under pressure. Worse still is Thomas Hampson. At 59 he no longer has the look or the sound of the youthful Mandryka (he’s actually three years older than Albert Dohmen who sings Arabella’s father). I had to laugh when he got Arabella’s note at the Ball and had to hold it at arms’ length to be able to read it! I'm very familiar with his problem, but it really doesn't look good here. The best performances by far are Hanna-Elisabeth Muller as an (almost) believable Zdenko/Zdenka and Daniel Behle as an especially ardent Matteo. You can tell by the ovations at the end that the audience on the night shared my opinion, they both got a more enthusiastic reception than Fleming or Hampson. I once saw a poll of “opera’s most annoying characters” – I can’t remember all the details, but I know that the Fiakermilli was somewhere near the top. Daniela Fehle’s squawky performance here won’t help it. The other parts are all very well taken.
The Dresden Staatskapelle have Strauss’s music in their blood and they play brilliantly for Christian Thielemann. It’s a great shame that Fleming and Hampson weren’t filmed in these roles 20 years ago – it would have been superb. As it is, we just have a taste of what might have been, just a bit too late.
Sound and pictures are both superb. Technical details: 24-bit LPCM Stereo and DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1.
Arabella's problem is that, while reprising many of Strauss' mannerisms of earlier operas, it lacks the lasting memorableness of Der Rosenkavalier or Ariadne auf Naxos, and it is not helped by the staging, which, in the current cliché, is moved from the 1860s to the First World War. The whole purpose of Arabella is to create a Viennese period setting centered upon the 1860s bourgeoisie in all its glamour, so there is not a lot of point in changing the period or the setting. It sheds virtually no new insight onto the opera. On the other hand the opera has not been spoilt by 'cleverness' and distracting modern anachronism.
The part of Arabella might have been written for Renée Fleming, and she might actually have the most ideal Strauss lyric soprano voice ever. She inhabits the character from start to finish and looks just lovely. There is no doubt that Renée Fleming singing Strauss is the main attraction. The softness and glow of her singing at the end of Act 1 and the start of Act 2 is balm to the ear, as are her ravishing pianissimi throughout, but there's no disguising the fact that her voice has lost some of its creaminess and her usual mannerisms may not please everyone.
Thomas Hampson as Mandryka has a strong stage presence but his stiff acting doesn't convey the characters aristocratic bearing and the voice sounds dry and undernourished. Hanna-Elisabeth Müller is a convincing boyish Zdenka and Daniel Behle an ardent, strongly sung Matteo. They really add freshness and vitality to the production. Albert Dohmen's voice sounds undernourished too, but he is a believable graf Waldner. Wonderful playing from Staatskapelle Dresden under Christian Thielemann.
Sound and picture of excellent quality.
Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
Arabella was intended to be a second Der Rozenkavalier. There are many similarities in the plot and certainly in some of the musical ideas. It never got to be as popular as Der Rozenkavalier, maybe due to its weak libretto, but it still has very memorable music. The soliloquy at the end of act 1 is just one example of particularly sublime music.
The staging is minimalistic; even the majestic stairs are not there. It is up to the singers to create as much drama and comedy as possible. This is very effective and allows for the music to do its magic. The cast is first class; Fleming and Hampson are a perfect for the roles and it shows. The video recording is of great quality and allows the singers to show expressions in close-ups that I wonder if the audience at the theater could appreciate. Highly recommended.
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