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Strauss: Arabella CD

5.0 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Orchestra: Bayerische Staatsoper
  • Conductor: Joseph Keilberth
  • Composer: Richard Strauss
  • Audio CD (14 Nov. 2005)
  • SPARS Code: ADD
  • Number of Discs: 2
  • Format: CD
  • Label: DG
  • ASIN: B000BO0GPY
  • Other Editions: Audio CD  |  MP3 Download
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 109,014 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)
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Product Description

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Format: Audio CD
Superb live performance recording - a must have! This was the second recording of Della Casa's most famed role to be released, a third, the Testament one was released last year and is also from a live performance. This performance is definitely better than the Testament and the Decca Solti studio recordings by quite a distance..

Not least of which is the fact Della Casa had been singing the role for about 11 years when this was recorded in August 1963 in Munich, her favorite house. Although Gulden is a very good Zdenka on the Decca disc, Rothenberger is equally good if not better. The biggest plus here however is the Mandryka of Fischer-Dieskau who matches Della Casa for command of his role and sounds at his resplendent best. George London for Decca is large voiced but lacks the nuances of F-D (London sounds like a bear all the time!). Then their is Keilberth's conducting, less in your face than Solti, more lyrical and much more happy to let the orchestra accompany rather than always be an antagonist to the singers.

The other roles are generally as good as Decca or better, Kohn as Graf Waldner is better, Ira Malaniuk sang the 1953 London performances along with Della Casa though I can't say I much care for her Adelaide on either. Matteo here is OK, there are perhaps better ones around but in the end it's the Arabella, Mandryka and Zdenka that make and break this work and all three here are just superb, and Keilberth frequently creates that magical Straussian sense of time standing still.

Originally a 3 disc release from DG this has appeared at budget pricing in 2 discs without a full libretto (though one can be found on the net with diligence). As such it's an utter bargain as well as being probably the best available!
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Format: Audio CD
SOURCE:
Live August 1963 performance by the Bavarian State Opera, recorded at the Nationaltheater in Munich in August 1963. First issued on Lp by Deutsche Grammophon in 1964.

SOUND:
The fame of this performance rests on the presence of its two great stars, Lisa Della Casa and Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau. Their voices are very well caught and reproduced. Because of the technological limitations of the time and the general difficulty of capturing any live opera performance before an audience, the excellent Bavarian State Opera Orchestra is not as well served as the singers. Overall sound is good but not quite up to capturing all the lushness and subtlety of this late Straussian score. The Bavarian audience is remarkably disciplined, disclosing its presence only by applause at appropriate times.
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Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Arabella is no great opera but this recording has a special appeal in its reminder of the glorious voice of Lisa Della Casa, best of all Strauss sopranos for me. With Fischer Dieskau in support, and fine orchestral playing, the recording is pretty well unbeatable
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Format: Audio CD
In recent years, the reputation of Joseph Keilberth, 1908-68, has grown showing him to be very much more than a capable Kapellmeister. His talents are evident in this live performance of Strauss’ rather contrived opera, given in the Prinzregententheater, Munich in August, 1963. The Orchestra and Chorus, chorus master Wolfgang Baumgart, of the Bavarian State Opera contribute fully to the excitement and emotion of the evening.

The cast offers much: Lisa Della Casa, 1919-2012, in the title role; Anneliese Rothenberger, 1926-2010, Zdenka, and Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, 1925-2012, Mandryka. Minor parts are taken by Ira Malaniuk, 1919-2009, Adelaide; Georg Paskuda, 1926-2001, Matteo; Karl Christian Kohn, 1928-2006, Fritz Uhl, 1928-2001, and Carl Hoppe, 1910-88, take the roles of Graf Waldner, Graf Elemer and Graf Lamoral, respectively.

The sound favours the singers but muffles some of the orchestration and delicacies of score, with the resonance of the brass being noticeable by its absence. Set against this is the stage atmosphere that Keilberth engenders and the good behavior of the Munich audience. The vocal characterisation of Della Casa and Fischer-Dieskau is impeccable, as is their interaction. On balance, the merits far outweigh the deficiencies.

Later in his career, Fischer-Dieskau became identified with the role of Mandryka but here seems already to have established himself, with attention to detail and nuanced emotion. Della Casa, in contrast, had been singing the role of Arabella for over a decade and, as an artist already widely recognised as one of the greatest Strauss interpreters, her performance is sublime in all respects. Rothenberger is an appealing and believable Zdenka.
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Amazon.com: 4.6 out of 5 stars 7 reviews
26 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Famous performance re-issued at bargain price 20 May 2006
By L. E. Cantrell - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
SOURCE:
Live August 1963 performance by the Bavarian State Opera, recorded at the Nationaltheater in Munich in August 1963. First issued on Lp by Deutsche Grammophon in 1964.

SOUND:
The fame of this performance rests on the presence of its two great stars, Lisa Della Casa and Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau. Their voices are very well caught and reproduced. Because of the technological limitations of the time and the general difficulty of capturing any live opera performance before an audience, the excellent Bavarian State Opera Orchestra is not as well served as the singers. Overall sound is good but not quite up to capturing all the lushness and subtlety of this late Straussian score. The Bavarian audience is remarkably disciplined, disclosing its presence only by applause at appropriate times.

CAST:
Graf Waldner, retired cavalry officer and luckless gambler - Karl Christian Kohn
Adelaide, his wife - Ira Malaniuk
Arabella, their elder daughter - Lisa Della Casa
Zdenka/Zdenko, their younger daughter, sometimes disguised as a male servant - Anneliese Rothenberger
Mandryka, a rich and therefore highly eligible bachelor from the countryside - Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau
Matteo, a cavalryman who thinks he's in love with Arabella - Georg Paskuda
Graf Elerner, suitor to Arabella - Fritz Uhl
Graf Dominik, suitor to Arabella - Carl Hoppe
Graf Lamoral, suitor to Arabella - Horst Guenter
Die Fiakermilli, mascot of the Viennese cabmen - Eva Maria Rogner
A Fortune Teller - Caecilie Reich
Welko, Mandryka's valet: Walther Matthes
Djura, Mandryka's servant - Walter Ehrengut
A Waiter - Walter Carnuth
Three Gamblers - Erich Ringal, Karl Muecke and Matthias Mertes

CONDUCTOR:
Joseph Keilberth with the Bayerisches Staatsorchester and Bayerischer Staatsopernchor.

TEXT:
"Arabella" premiered in 1933. It was originally set out in three distinct acts but in 1939, largely at the prompting of his friend, the conductor and librettist Clemens Krauss, Strauss made some cuts and changes, the most obvious of which makes the opera flow continuously from Act II into Act III. The production recorded here reflects the 1939, second state of "Arabella." It should be noted that subsequent recordings and performances have tended to close the 1939 cuts and return to the initial text of 1933.

FORMAT:
Disk 1 - Act I, tracks 1-16; Act II, tracks 17-20; 80:50.
Disk 2 - Act II (continued), tracks 1-10; Act III, tracks 11-22; 78:48.

DOCUMENTATION:
No libretto. Plot synopsis keyed on track listings. Nothing on the opera or the performers. (For those interested in such things, a German language libretto is available on the internet as I write this.)

COMMENTARY:
"Arabella" was the final operatic collaboration of Richard Strauss and his most famous librettist, Hugo von Hoffmannsthal. It is a return to the territory of their greatest joint-triumph, "Der Rosenkavalier," and it might justifiably be described as "Rosenkavalier-lite."

The story is set in Vienna of the 1860s, a place that likely occupied some of Strauss' very earliest memories. A down-at-the-heels Austrian nobleman is attempting to stave off financial disaster by trailing his attractive and marriageable daughter Arabella before the eyes of eligible--that is, wealthy suitors. Unfortunately, he has a second and younger daughter whose presence might complicate matters, so she dresses up as a boy and pretends she is a family servant. Arabella has no difficulty in attracting crowds of suitors, including one dashing young cavalryman whom her younger sister adores, but she finds none of them to be the right man for her. Nevertheless, the two sisters are convinced that Mr. Right is out there, somewhere, and they sing a beautiful duet about him. Now in comes Mandryka, a rough-edged bumpkin from Croatia who has just inherited great wealth and has fallen in love with a picture of Arabella. Confusions and misapprehensions inevitably follow but in the end true love triumphs, sort of. All in all, the story of "Arabella" is very like one of those classy Preston Sturgess Hollywood comedies of the late 1930s, such as "The Lady Eve."

Musically, Strauss is generally in "Rosenkavalier"-mode. While all his skill is still there, the level of intensity and memorability he offers is noticeably lower than it had been in the earlier work. In Act II, everybody turns up at the annual Cabmen's Ball, which provides an opportunity for Richard Strauss to offer up some music in the style of Johann Strauss. Unfortunately, he takes the opportunity. The best that can be said of that passage is that it is short and R. Strauss soon returns to being R. Strauss, much to the relief of all.

The great Swiss soprano Lisa Della Casa simply owned the role of Arabella outright. She can only be described as wonderful here--although some insist that she was not quite what she had been a few years earlier. No-one in the past forty years and more has equaled her. Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau was a great singer and far more at home in this material than in his occasional catastrophic forays into Italian opera. He gives a good performance, but I find him just a little too smooth and polished. Hans Hotter preceded him in the part and would have offered a touch of welcome and intractable granite.

Anneliese Rothenberger is very good as Zdenka/Zdenko, as are Kohn and Malaniuk as her parents. Richard Strauss despised tenors. In general, he didn't waste his time in attempting to write decent music for them. Here, Georg Paskuda, a second-rate tenor, sings Matteo's second-rate music and then is promptly and easily forgotten. The rest of the cast is quite good--except for Eva Maria Rogner who is bloody awful in Strauss' poor imitation of "Der Fledermaus."

Joseph Keilberth was the Rodney Dangerfield of conductors. He just didn't get no respect. The good, grey Gramophone Magazine loftily sniffed that he was "a good routinier but an uninspired conductor." Perhaps so, but I have never heard him conduct an unsatisfactory opera performance. And from this routinier it is always the composer's music that I hear, something not always the case with "inspired" conductors like Karajan and Solti.

This is a good recording of a classic performance with the greatest of all Arabellas. It is offered at a bargain price. Of course it is worth five stars.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A vibrant live Arabella--the one to have 28 Oct. 2006
By Santa Fe Listener - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
I came late to Arabella, which lacks the exotic settings, fairy tale magic, and robustness of Strauss's earlier operatic writing. Its plot is ocnfined to the doubts in love of a modern woman, a far remove from Salome or Elektra. The melodic line is constant--a feature of late Struass--without being memorable except at intervals. But thanks to beautiful protagonists portrayed by Te Kanawa and before her Lisa Della Casa, the opera has considerable charm and appeal. Here we have a vibrant live performance from 1963; the Bavarian State Opera cast could hardly be bettered, or even equalled, today.

Every principal sings with great emotional conviction, particularly Della Case, famed in this role, and Anneliese Rothenberger as her sister Zdenka. Thier vocal tone is rather similar, but this only adds to their marvelous duet singing. Fischer-Dieskau gives us a signature role, and only the Matteo of Georg Paskuda falls a bit short, but this is another of Strauss's taxing tenor roles, more lyrical than Wagnerian but tough nonetheless.

Keilberth conducts very well, with flexibility and refinement--a studio recording could hardly improve on the orchestral part. DG's live stereo, though replete with stage noises and applause, is first rate. In all, I can't imagine needing another Arabella, and given the extra vitality of a stage performance, no studio set that I've come across feels this spontaneous and joyous. Alas, Hoffmansthal's affecting libretto isn't included.
12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Live is better in my book 18 Feb. 2006
By Jay Kobler - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Right off the bat, I must confess that I generally prefer "live" performances to studio recordings--and this preference is particularly marked in the present case. Della Casa seems more committed here than in her studio performance of this role, and Kleiber's warm but not slack approach to the music works better for me than does Solti's exciting but more superficial approach. Fischer-Dieskau is also in splendid voice, as are virtually all the members of the cast. The enthusiastic but not obtrusive audience adds to my enjoyment, and the sound is fine. Especially at the price for which it is available, I can recommend this recording without reservation.
13 of 16 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Studio is better 16 May 2007
By Lawrence Rapchak - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
I am very aware of the excitement and thrills of live performance as opposed to studio recordings but, in most every way, I think Strauss' operas are better served by the latter.

Strauss's extremely detailed, intricate and precise method of composing for voice and orchestra---especially in his "conversational" style (of which Arabella is chock-full)is SO difficult to keep coordinated between singers and orchestra. With Strauss' continuously shifting harmonies, complex and elaborate orchestral figuration and frequent juxtaposing of

opposing meters, the controlled environment of the studio provides a far-better opportunity for a conductor to coordinate his forces, thus providing a more accurate realization of the score.

This is a round-about way of saying that the 1963 Keilberth Arabella, while certainly a fine achievement by the recording standards of the day,

still obscures much of the detailed interplay between stage and pit, as well as the proper balances within the orchestra. And so the listener's comprehension of Strauss' magnificent mosaic of text and instrumental motif suffers quite a bit.

Lisa Della Casa is (once again) fine in her signature role, though she sounds a bit tired by the opera's final scene.

Sorry to be picky, but this recording really falls down, in my opinion, because of the following:

1.) While I generally admire Keilberth's work, the opening of Act 1 is numbingly slow, thus robbing the scene of the fascinating conversational

pace and intensity that is so important in this score. The opera really sounds D.O.A. in its first 6-7 minutes, which seriously drags the whole first Act down.

2.) Keilberth cuts Act 3 to ribbons---sorry, it's just too much.

3.) I'm an "underdog" kind of guy who usually roots for the unknown singers--but Georg Paskuda as Matteo is just not vocally credible...another real blight on the performance.

4.) Fischer-Dieskau barks and shouts too much of his part---I know he's supposed to be upset but Puh-leeez---the composer wrote actual

PITCHES for the role of Mandryka!

There ARE a lot of wonderful moments in this performance--I think the final Waltz music/coda of Act 1 is really effective---but in general

the recordings conducted by Solti, Sawallisch and Tate are all clearly superior to this one.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Somewhat problematic sound, but a marvelous performance overall 5 Aug. 2009
By G.D. - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
While this might not, perhaps, be the perfect overall Arabella, Lisa della Casa's singing is simply stunning. Indeed, I wouldn't hesitate to describe it as one of the great vocal performances of all time, and for her alone this set would have been mandatory regardless of the rest of the cast, orchestra or anything else (and I haven't heard the 1957 performance, which it is said is even better). Fortunately, however, the situation is far from bad. Still, her simply marvelous handling of the soaring passages, as well as her magnificent characterization of the role will get any opera enthusiast hooked on this set immediately.

Most notable among the rest of the cast is Fischer-Dieskau's superb Mandryka, detailed and subtly characterized and generally beautifully sung. But Rothenberger as Zdenka also merits praise, and I have no complaints about Kohn's fine Waldner. The rest of the cast might be less distinguished, but is generally accomplished enough.

The real downside is that the orchestral sound is somewhat thin. This is due to the positions favored by the recording team and the recorded sound itself (technical limitations when it comes to capturing live performances at the time) than any shortcoming of the performance itself - which is indeed spirited and powerful and generally splendidly directed by Keilberth. Overall, then, this is a definite must, although I would perhaps recommend having the Solti recording as well for an even fuller picture of the whole opera.
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