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Strauss: Arabella

4.9 out of 5 stars 7 customer reviews

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(May 13, 2008)
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Editorial Reviews

A classic, historic and faithful account of Strauss s comedy of manners, the only film version available of this opera. Subtitles available: English, French, German, Italian, Spanish, Chinese

Special Features


Product Details

  • Actors: Gundula Janowitz, Bernd Weikl, René Kollo, Sona Ghazarian, Edita Gruberova
  • Directors: Otto Schenk
  • Writers: Richard Strauss
  • Format: Multiple Formats, AC-3, Classical, Color, Dolby, DTS Surround Sound, Full Screen, NTSC, Subtitled, Surround Sound, Import
  • Language: German
  • Subtitles: Chinese, English, French, German, Spanish
  • Region: All Regions
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
    Not Rated
  • Studio: Decca
  • DVD Release Date: May 13, 2008
  • Run Time: 150 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0011WMWX4
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #119,765 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Strauss: Arabella" on IMDb

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Top Customer Reviews

By Michael Birman TOP 1000 REVIEWER on May 21, 2008
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
Richard Strauss, like Igor Stravinsky with The Rite of Spring, seemed frightened by what he had composed with the dissonant modern operas Elektra and Salome, retreating, as did Stravinsky, into a more conventional music of the past. It remained for Arnold Schoenberg to take the plunge and remove the trappings of tonality. Strauss, with his librettist Hugo von Hofmannsthal, composed a series of lyrical dramas that are quite conventional but often feature music of great beauty. Their last collaboration was Arabella, begun in 1927 but not completed until October 1932 and first performed in Dresden 1 July 1933. Composition was slowed when Hofmannsthal died in early July 1929, having completed his revision of the first act. Strauss was forced to tackle the libretto on his own, a difficult task since he was not happy with the plot, considering it uninteresting and lacking any true conflict. He made some changes and, although uninspired by the libretto, finally finished the opera. His criticism of the libretto is valid: the plot has precious little forward thrust, the character of Arabella is somewhat tame, the others more or less bland, as well. Nevertheless, the opera contains much music of sumptuous beauty as only Strauss could write, creating in Arabella a symphonic portrait of an ideal woman, a three hour long stage tone poem. Strauss' writing for string quintet and woodwinds is especially masterful. Passages containing music for bass clarinet and horns that are passed to pizzicato strings reveal Strauss the orchestral wizard, his mastery of instrumental dynamics is stunning.

Gundula Janowiz is a fine Arabella in this beautifully filmed version of the opera, directed in 1977 by Otto Schenk. Costumes and sets are gorgeous, wonderfully evoking the slightly decadent Vienna of the 1860s.
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Format: DVD Verified Purchase
Waldner: Hans Kraemmer
Adelaide: Margarita Lilowa
Arabella: Gundula Janowitz
Zdenka: Sona Ghazarian
Mandryka: Bernd WEikl
Matteo: Rene Kollo
Elemer: Goran Franssom
Dominik: Hans Helm
Lamoral: Kurt Rydl
Eine Fortuna: Martha Modl
Fiakermilli: Edita Gruberova

Vienna Philharmonic, Georg Solti
Directed by Otto Schenk

It's a "most ingenious paradox" that Roger Pines in The Opera Quarterly, and David Hamilton, of The Metropolitan Opera Guide to Opera on Video had completely dissenting reactions to all of the Arabellas on video. Pines preferred the MET video by far with Te Kanawa, had reservations about the Schenk film; and found Della Casa self-indulgent, mannered and fussy. Hamilton on the other hand, found Te Kanawa lacking, and was so-so about the MET DVD; really liked the Schenk movie, and was rather neutral about Della Casa and that release.

I happen to like all three, for different reasons; but they all do justice to Strauss's opera.

This movie has its limitations: it's lip-synched, but done unsually well. Some of the camerawork is claustrophobic and too-close. But overall it is a simply gorgeous, moving film.

The director of photography, the always-artistic Wolfgang Treu, captures a nostalgic, amber-colored atmosphere, with rich palettes, and a sinuous, warm tone. It looks to me like the time has been pushed up to the Arte Nouveau-Arts-and-Crafts Fin de Siecle era, and it works beautifully. The sets are eloquent, earthy and comfortingly inviting. It abets the score and story most fetchingly.

The key to this movie is both of a familial and romantic warmth. 1977 was a second Golden Age in Vienna for Strauss, and here it is in all its glory.
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By DDD on June 15, 2008
Format: DVD
I have rated this DVD four stars because it is a film and not a live performance. Yes, the singers' attention to lipsynching is good (as good as the performance of Ariadne auf Naxos)but the performance still lacks the effectiveness that only a live performance has. It is also on two discs which is unnecessary--afterall DGG (a Universal Company) released their Arabella on one disc.

Initially I was reluctant to consider this performance. Solti's recording was the first complete (true an earlier one from Salzburg was released in the 90's) recording. Starring Della Casa, Gueden and George London it should have perfection. Alas Solti's brutal handling of the music and his rigidity effectively destroyed the beauty of the score. Later a DGG live performance conducted by Keilbert with Della Casa and Fischer Dieskau was released. Keilbert obviously loved the score but by then Della Casa could no longer sustain long phrases without great effort. Fischer Dieskau was never a "natural" Mandryka but he was so musical that he could compensate artistically for what he lacked vocally. Te Kanawa's recording was scuppered by a dreadful Zdenka and an undistinguished Mandryka.

But onto the DVDs. It is interesting to compare the DGG release with the Decca, notably for the "secondary roles. DGG gives us Donald McIntyre and Helga Dernesch, a Wotan and a Brunhilde-Isolde cum Klytemnesta. The Decca counterparts are second tier singers at the State Opera, never less than competent, but hardly in the same class. Decca does manage to give a Card Dealer whose career ranged from Brunhilde to Fidelio, but Modl is close to voiceless but fortunately the role is in the conversational mode so that what we have is a "name" but not necessarily a "voice".
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