“Arabella”, the final collaboration between Hugo von Hofmannsthal and Richard Strauss, gives Christian Thielemann another opportunity to show his class as a Strauss specialist, captivating his audience at the rostrum of the Dresden Staatskapelle in his second season as Artistic Director of the Salzburg Easter Festival. “The music is dreamily opulent”, concluded the Frankfurter Allgemeine newspaper (FAZ).
Inspired by the resounding success of “Der Rosenkavalier” a few years earlier, Strauss and Hofmannsthal once again placed the action of the opera, premiered at the Dresden Semperoper in 1933, in late-19th-century Vienna. Director Florentine Kleppers’ sensitive handling of the characters, in a fin-de-siècle stage set by Martina Segna, and the elegant costumes by Anna Sofie Tuma provide well-nigh ideal conditions for the brilliant vocal ensemble, in which Renée Fleming as Arabella excels with her unique powers of character portrayal. “She is a pure-bred Straussian, as was evident on Saturday from start to finish of the performance in a master class of vocal style adapted to the music of Strauss that was simply amazing”, we read in leading Spanish daily El Pais, and the FAZ went into raptures: “But scarcely has Renée Fleming taken the stage (…) scarcely has she begun to sing than she radiates her own personal aura (…) The brightest, most comforting soprano heaven opens up before us when Müller joins Fleming in the famous sisters’ duet”. Hanna-Elisabeth Müller as an “intensive Zdenka proved to be, alongside the orchestra’s excellent Strauss sound, the highlight of the evening”, reported Vienna newspaper Kurier. Thomas Hampson is convincing as a “reserved, delicate Mandryka” (Opernglas) and together with Renée Fleming he does more than justice to the designation of “vocal dream team” (orf.at).
And Christian Thielemann? Once again, his conducting is an inspiration. He provides affectionate support at the rostrum of the Dresden Staatskapelle, which premiered nine of Strauss’s 15 operas and is deservedly famous world wide. “The Strauss of the Dresden Staatskapelle conducted by Christian Thielemann has no equal today for full-bodied sound, elegance and suppleness” (Ogni Giorno). An Arabella simply “overflowing with music” (orf.at).