As a local mini-Strauss-fest approaches, Chris’s Cache offers “bleeding chunks” from the past half-century featuring eight preeminent exemplars: (in chronological order) Gundula Janowitz, Josephine Barstow, Kiri Te Kanawa, Renée Fleming, Karita Mattila, Nina Stemme, Anne Schwanewilms and Anja Harteros.

On March 23, the American Symphony Orchestra presents Daphne led by Leon Botstein at Carnegie Hall, followed four days later by the Met’s second revival of Robert Carsen’s widely acclaimed Der Rosenkavalier most notable for Lise Davidsen’s first-ever Marschallin.

In the meantime, I’ve been listening a lot to Arabella, particularly its four prime highlights (about 35 minutes of music) that I’ve cobbled together for today:

  • Act I duet with Zdenka
  • Act I finale: “Mein Elemer”
  • Act II Betrothal Duet with Mandryka
  • Act III finale with Mandryka

Janowitz stars in a film of Arabella but I’m not crazy about those glossy, lip-synced opera movies in fashion back then. And in today’s pirate the soprano is paired with Lucia Popp as her sister. Popp, of course, would become a notable Arabella herself and a complete performance with her and Wolfgang Brendel (who is also Fleming’s beau today) remains available here.

Barstow too has a lovely sister in Norma Burrowes, as does Fleming in Christine Schäfer and Schwanewilms in Genia Kühmeier, the latter was to have been Zdenka in the Met’s last revival which was originally planned for Harteros who had by then given up on crossing the Atlantic.

I chose the San Francisco Arabella for Te Kanawa as I saw her along with Barbara Daniels and Ingvar Wixell together again at Lyric Opera of Chicago. Fleming’s Met performance, at least the one I attended, was rather disappointing until a splendid final scene. Of the four sopranos I’ve seen in the role (Malin Byström is the fourth) my favorite—to my surprise—was Mattila, whom I saw at Covent Garden. She was smashing and had irresistible chemistry with Thomas Hampson, whose Mandryka remains my favorite role of his.

I believe Stemme only performed the role in this Gothenberg production and Harteros seems to have given up Arabella, along with everything else perhaps although Munich has optimistically listed her for three roles in its plans for next season.

Who are today’s—or tomorrow’s—sopranos looking for der Ritchtige? American Jacquelyn Wagner performed the opera in Madrid earlier this year and Rachel Willis-Sorensen has had it scheduled recently. Hanna-Elisabeth Mu?ller, Harteros’s Zdenka, is moving into more mature roles and seems a clear candidate. Will Davidsen follow up the Marschallin with yet another Strauss role?

After Daphne Rosenkavalier in New York, devoted Straussians can venture to Houston in late April for Salome when its second major cast change has resulted in Mattila as Herodias, then onto San Francisco in June for Stemme and Camilla Nylund (another Arabella) in Die Frau ohne Schatten.

Arabella: Gundula Janowitz
Zdenka: Lucia Popp
Mandryka: Eberhard Wächter

Conductor: Heinrich Hollreiser
Wiener Staatsoper
20 September 1976
In-house recording

Arabella: Josephine Barstow
Zdenka: Norma Burrowes
Mandryka: Peter Glossop

Conductor: Mark Elder
English National Opera
11 November 1980


Arabella: Kiri Te Kanawa
Zdenka: Barbara Daniels
Mandryka: Ingvar Wixell

Conductor: Wolfgang Rennert
San Francisco Opera
14 November 1980


Arabella: Renée Fleming
Zdenka: Christine Schäfer
Mandryka: Wolfgang Brendel

Conductor: Christoph Eschenbach
Houston Grand Opera
19 April 1998


Arabella: Karita Mattila
Zdenka: Barbara Bonney
Mandryka: Thomas Hampson

Philharmonia Orchestra
Conductor: Christoph von Dohnányi
Théâtre du Châtelet

In-house recording

Arabella: Nina Stemme
Zdenka: Kristina Hansson
Mandryka: Anders Larsson

Conductor: Olaf Henzold
Gothenberg Opera
25 November 2006


Arabella: Anne Schwanewilms
Zdenka: Genia Kühmeier
Mandryka: Morten Frank Larsen

Conductor: Ulf Schirmer
Wiener Staatsoper
27 March 2009

In-house recording

Arabella: Anja Harteros
Zdenka: Hanna-Elisabeth Mu?ller
Mandryka: Thomas J. Mayer

Conductor: Philippe Jordan
Bavarian State Opera
6 July 2015


Each group of Arabella excerpts can be downloaded by clicking on the icon of a cloud with an arrow pointing downward on the audio player above and the resulting mp3 file will appear in your download directory.

Chris’s Cache will close March with some Berlioz.