Arabella is a lyric comedy or opera in 3 acts by Richard Strauss to a German libretto by Hugo von Hofmannsthal, their sixth and last operatic collaboration. It was first performed on 1 July 1933, at the Dresden Sächsisches Staatstheater. The opera made its United States debut at the Metropolitan Opera on February 10, 1955 with Eleanor Steber in the title role.
||Premiere cast, July 1, 1933
(Conductor: Clemens Krauss)
|Zdenka, her sister
|Count Waldner, their father, a retired cavalry officer
|Adelaide, their mother
|Mandryka, a Croatian landowner
|Matteo, a young officer
|Count Elemer, one of Arabella's suitors
||Karl Albrecht Streib
|Count Dominik, another
|Count Lamoral, a third
|The Fiakermilli, belle of the Coachmen's Ball
|Welko, Djura, Jankel, Mandryka's servants
|A chaperone, three card players, a doctor, a waiter
|Coachmen, waiters, ball guests, hotel residents
- Time: 1860s
- Place: Vienna
The beautiful but proud Arabella is the daughter of the Waldner family, who face financial ruin unless Arabella marries a rich husband. Arabella hopes to marry for love, not money; but when a loving suitor unexpectedly appears, her happiness is threatened by a web of misunderstanding and deception.
In a hotel in Vienna
Countess Adelaide has her fortune told. The fortune teller predicts Arabella will marry a man from far away, but that trouble may be in store. The Waldners have a second daughter, Zdenka, but since they can hardly afford two daughters marrying, they have dressed her as a boy, whom they present as "Zdenko." Zdenka is actually in love with Matteo, a penniless officer who loves Arabella. To prevent him from committing suicide, Zdenka writes him love letters she signs with Arabella's name. Zdenka reproaches Arabella for her unsympathetic treatment of Matteo, but Arabella says that she is hoping for the "Right Man," to whom she can give her heart completely. Meanwhile, Arabella is wooed by three suitors: Elemer, Dominik and Lamoral, and she acknowledges that she may have to accept one of them, but she has fallen in love at first sight with a stranger she has barely passed in the street.
Count Waldner, in dire straits, has written all his friends for financial help, to no avail. Waldner was hopeful for an answer from an old and immensely wealthy Croatian friend of his named Mandryka; he had even sent him a portrait of Arabella, in hopes of a marriage. A visitor arrives and Count Waldner is surprised to see that it is his friend Mandryka, however, a different man enters, who turns out to be the nephew, also named Mandryka. His uncle is dead, and as his only heir, he has acquired his fortune, the letter and portrait. From seeing the portrait, he has fallen in love with Arabella. He offers to marry her and gives Waldner money.
A carnival ball is to be held that night. Matteo asks "Zdenko," his supposedly male friend, when he will receive another letter from Arabella; "Zdenko" answers that he will have one that very evening at the ball. Arabella continues to muse about the strange man she had noticed, but when Count Elemer arrives to be her escort for the evening, she tries to banish these thoughts and look forward to the excitement of the ball.
In a ballroom
Arabella meets Mandryka, who turns out to be her fascinating stranger. Mandryka tells her about his life and his country's customs, in which young women offer their fiancés a glass of water as a token of agreeing to be married. Mandryka tells Arabella that she will be mistress of all the things he owns, and that she will be the only thing that will be ranked above him besides the Emperor himself; Arabella finally agrees to marry him, saying, "I give myself to you, for eternity," the couple are very happy and Mandryka agrees to Arabella's request that she be allowed to say farewell to her maidenhood, during which she thanks her suitors for their interest in her and bids them goodbye.
Meanwhile, Zdenka gives Matteo a letter with the key to the room next to Arabella's, saying that it is Arabella's room and promising that Arabella will meet him there that night. Mandryka overhears this conversation and, mad with jealousy and disappointment (although he at first tried to evade these feelings), raises a commotion, flirting with the Fiakermilli, the ball's mascot. Since Arabella is nowhere to be found, the Waldners insist that he meet Arabella to talk things out, and they head for the hotel.
A lobby in the hotel
A passionate orchestral prelude depicts the love-making of Matteo and Zdenka.
Arabella enters the lobby and comes across Matteo. As Arabella is in love with Mandryka and Matteo is in love with Arabella and thinks it was she with whom he had just made love, in a darkened room, their conversation is at once confused and emotional. The Count and Countess and Mandryka arrive at this moment, helping further the misunderstanding. After Mandryka accuses Arabella of infidelity and plans to go back to his land, Zdenka rushes in, no longer in disguise and in her negligee (making it clear that it was she who slept with Matteo). She declares her intention to drown herself for such a disgrace. The situation is finally cleared up. Matteo learns that the letters were forged by Zdenka and that it was her and not Arabella in the room. Surprisingly, he suddenly realizes that he is in love with Zdenka, whom he agrees to marry. Mandryka is left to ruminate on his indecorous and boorish behaviour, thinking it has lost him Arabella as his wife. Arabella asks his servant to bring her a glass of water, and Mandryka thinks she has requested it for her refreshment. Arabella goes upstairs and Mandryka, grieving and blaming himself, stays downstairs. However, afterwards Arabella comes down the stairs and, seeing that he has stayed and having pardoned him, offers him the glass of water, signifying reconciliation and marriage. They happily kiss and Arabella goes up the stairs to her room.
- Woodwinds: 2 flutes, piccolo (doubling on 3rd flute), 2 oboes, English horn, 3 clarinets, bass clarinet, 3 bassoons (3rd doubling on double bassoon)
- Brass: 4 horns, 3 trumpets, 3 trombones, bass tuba
- Other: timpani, harp, strings
- See Arabella discography.
- " Arabella: Richard Strauss" from English National Opera series, New York: Riverrun Press, 1985) ISBN 0-7145-4062-5
- John Warrack and Ewan West, The Oxford Dictionary of Opera, 1992 ISBN 0-19-869164-5