I don't think there is a similar dormant discussion thread here, and I thought this might be a useful catch-all. Come one, come all.
ARABELLA is not many people's favorite Richard Strauss opera, and it wouldn't be higher than sixth or seventh on my list. In an average performance, I feel its reputation as a weak sister to Strauss/von Hofmannsthal's earlier ROSENKAVALIER is not unjust. But a second viewing recently reinforced my impression that the Solti/Schenk studio film is one of the best of all opera films. Gundula Janowitz isn't a physical beauty as some celebrated Arabellas have been (Della Casa, Te Kanawa, Fleming), but she achieves something really special here. Of course she sings the part beautifully, but without doing anything particularly sophisticated in screen acting, she's sweet, forthright and winning, and in no time at all I stopped noticing or caring that she's both plain and quite a bit older than the alluring young woman she's playing. Often when we talk of an opera singer being a great actor too, we mean it in the traditional thespian sense -- the highest compliment is "Even if s/he couldn't sing, s/he could have had a career on the stage" (Callas, Gobbi, Jones, et al). This is not the case with Janowitz, but I was reminded watching her that there is another path to distinction in operatic acting -- to create a character not only with the voice but with an inner surety and conviction, so that an illusion is achieved in plain sight, inside out. It has nothing to do with technique; it's something more mysterious and instinctive.
The rest of the cast is wonderful too: a youngish Weikl never better than as poor confused Mandryka; Kollo, at the time a leading Lohengrin, luxury-cast as Matteo; Sona Ghazarian an adorable Zdenka with a really lovely rapport with her on-stage sister; Gruberova making a colortura star turn of Fiakermilli; Martha Moedl a high-profile Fortune Teller; good Vienna house regulars as the parents. Solti's conducting has matured in the right ways since his controversial Decca recording of two decades earlier -- less brash, more yielding and supportive, one of his best Strauss outings.
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