[Met Performance] CID:167980
Arabella {2} Academy of Music, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: 02/15/1955.


Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
February 15, 1955
In English


Arabella................Eleanor Steber
Mandryka................George London
Zdenka..................Hilde Güden
Matteo..................Brian Sullivan
Adelaide................Blanche Thebom
Count Waldner...........Ralph Herbert
Fortuneteller...........Thelma Votipka
Count Elemer............Gabor Carelli
Count Dominik...........Clifford Harvuot
Count Lamoral...........Lawrence Davidson
Fiakermilli.............Roberta Peters
Welko...................Benjamin Wilkes
Djura...................Matthew Farruggio
Jankel..................Paul Marko
Waiter..................Rudolf Mayreder

Conductor...............Rudolf Kempe

Review of Max de Schauensee in the Philadelphia Bulletin

Met Opera Gives 'Arabella' in Philadelphia Bow

The Metropolitan Opera Association brought over its brand-new production of Richard Strauss' "Arabella" to the Academy of Music last night. The opera received its American premiere in New York last Thursday evening, so that this was the second performance of Strauss' opera in America.
A premiere at the Metropolitan in this day of well-nigh impossible economic conditions for the production of opera on a grand scale is an event not to be minimized.

It is also true that of all countries in the world the United States is the least responsive to new works and is apparently content to blandly bask in an endless succession of operatic warhorses. Therefore, the production of a new opera is a highly commendable and important undertaking. The management of the Metropolitan did not spare itself in presenting this opera of Strauss' later productive life; the result was that an evening of great quality and distinction was witnessed by last night's big audience.

Conductor Bows Here

A new and highly talented conductor, Rudolf Kempe, was presented at the orchestral helm, making his Philadelphia debut, and a cast filled with many well-known luminaries of the American operatic scene was enlisted for the occasion.

And now what of Strauss' opera? This is a conversation piece with an 1860 Vienna setting. It is a lovely score, fragrant with sentiment and nostalgia. Some have said that this is an old man's opera. If that is true, then it has the virtues of its defects, for Strauss has here achieved a maturity, a serenity and a sense of relinquishment that the young composer of "Salome" and "Elektra" could not have possibly achieved. Only in certain passages of the Marschallin's music in "Rosenkavalier" has Strauss equaled the gentle, introspective mood that pervades much of this score.

If people like a murder or a seduction in every scene, "Arabella" is not their opera. Lack of theatricality and scenes that are without doubt static do exist in this autumnal effort and can form a basis of valid criticism, but to compensate the listener will find a wisdom and a wholesomeness of mood that might prove an artistic oasis in an age of violence and unrelenting activity.

Orchestrally Superb

And Strauss had not lost his melodic gift at this stage, Arabella's two solos, her duets with Zdenka and Mandryka and the latter's fine, second act passage offer proof that such is the case. Orchestrally, the opera is the workmanship of a superb and seasoned craftsman.

Mr. Kempe, the new conductor, a Strauss specialist, was lost and involved within the depths of this score to such an extent that he was able from this inward involvement to exteriorize in magnificent fashion all the detailed implication that is so brilliantly set forth in Strauss' orchestra.

Miss Eleanor Steber, in the role of Arabella, seemed admirably chosen, singing like an angel, especially in the last act passage "I'm very glad, Mandryka." Opposite Miss Steber was George London, a superb and psychologically right Mandryka. Then there was Hilde Gueden's charming Zdenka, with her skylark tones, and Blanche Thebom's comely, and amusing Adelaide.

Successful Debut

Ralph Herbert made a successful debut as Count Waldner, Arabella's father and Brian Sullivan coped well with the high-ranged passages allotted to the impetuous Matteo. Roberta Peters had a brief but effective appearance as the mercurial Fiakermilli at the coachmen's ball, giving the cast a stellar touch, and Gabor Carelli, Clifford Harvuot and others gave valiant support. The scenery and costumes of Rolf Gerard were admirable, and so was the staging of Herbert Graf, an old hand at this kind of thing.

The opera was sung in an English translation - and an excellent one - by John Gutman. This was a happy thought, as the work, with its many scenes of conversation and introspection, benefitted by this clarification of what was taking place. The diction of George London was altogether outstanding. Otherwise, as many words were heard as are heard on an average in operas sung in European tongues. One commends Rudolf Bing and the Metropolitan for making available to Philadelphia a new score that has known seriously considered success abroad. Such occasions are far too rare.

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