Arabella at Royal Danish Opera Old Stage – synopsis
Composer and librettist
Music: Richard Strauss|Lyrics: Hugo von Hofmannsthal
First performance States-Opera in Dresden 1 juli 1933. Seen the performance 23.5.2003 Den Kongelige Opera Köpenhamn
The debt-ridden Count Waldner lives in a hotel in Vienna with his wife Adelaide and their two daughters Arabella and Zdenka; but since he cannot afford to present two daughters in Vienna society, he has had the the youngest wear boy´s clothing under the name Zdenka. Adelaide has sent for a fortune-teller to consults the cards about Arabella’s chances of marriage, and in the the cards she sees a stranger, an officer and another daughter who constitutes a threat. Adelaide reveals that Zdenka is the other daughter, but insists that Arabella loves her older sister and would never do anything to harm her. When Adelaide and the fortune-teller have gone into the next room,the young officer Matteo comes in.He is seriously in love with Arabella and seeks help from Zdenka. She promises that she will get him a letter from Arabella, as she has done before; in reality it is herself who writes the letters to please Matteo, with whom she is in love herself. When Arabella comes home from the walk on the Ring, Zdenka tries to convince her that Matteo would be the best possible husband for her; but Arabella calmly explains that he is not the right man for her. When she does meet the right man, she will know at once. The ringing of bells from the street announces the arrival of Count Elemer, and Zdenka fears that her sister will accept his suit- because this means that Matteo may kill himself.Arabella tells Zdenka about a stranger who made a strong impression on her when he gazed at her in the street the same morning. Elemer has come to take Arabella for a sleighrid, but to his chagrin she insists that Zdenka should come with them.Count Waldner has gambled away the last of his wife’s jewellery in a desperate attempt to raise money, and his very last hope also seems to be fading. He has written to a very rich old regimental friend Mandryka, enclosing Arabella’s portrait in the hope that his old friend will come to Vienna and marry her. At that very moment there is a knock on the door and a servant announces Mandryka, – but he turns out to be the nephew of the old regimental friend, saying that since his uncle has died he has himself taken the liberty of opening the letter with Arabella´s picture. He immediately fell in love with her beautiful face and has come to the capital to ask for her hand. Count Waldner is delighted, especially because Mandryka tells his prospective father-in-law to help himself to the contents of hus fat wallet.Mandryka wants to wait until later before being introduced to Arabella herself, and takes his leave, while Count Waldner, who now has money in his pocket again, wants to get back to the gambling tables.Arabella has prepared herself for the sleighride,but still cannot forget the stranger.The same evening, she is to be the Queen of the Cabbies´Ball, but after this she must choose among her suitors.
That evening at the ball, Arabella is introduced to Mandryka, who proves to be none other than the stranger who has made such an impression on her. He tells her about his life, and she immediately realizes that he is the right man for her.They are engaged, but Arabella asks permission to stay and say goodbye to her girlhood. She is swept away by her admiers and the cabbies’ mascot Fiakermillo acclaim her as Queen of the Ball, and Mandryka invites everyone for champagne. When she has danced with her three admirers – Elemer, Lamoral and Dominik -,Arabella decides to go home. Matteo has seen what has happened and in despair wants to kill himself, but Zdenka quickly gives him a key which she says is the key of Arabella’s room. Unfortunately,Mandryka has overheard the conversation, and since he cannot find Arabella in the ballroom – only a short note from her saying that she has gone home – he assumes the worst and starts flirting in drunken despair with hte Fiakermilli. Waldner does not understand his behaviour, and demands that Mandryka come back with him to the hotel for an explanation of his outrageous accusations against Arabella.
In the foyer of the hotel Arabella is still dreaming about her meeting with Mandryka when Matteo comes out from the room where he believes that he has just had a rendezvous with her. Mutual misunderstanding leads to strong words between them,and when Waldner och Mandryka get back to the hotel, and the latter recogizes Matteo as the man with the key, he challenges him to a duel. Arabella tries in vain to appeal to Mandryka but he refuses to believe her assurances that she is innocent.Only when Zdenka comes rushing down the stairs in her negligee and confesses that it was she with whom Matteo had the rendezvous in the belief that she was Arabella, are all the complications unravelled. Zdenka gets her Matteo, and after taking some time to think, Arabella forgives Mandryka and, according to the custom of his native region, brings him a glass of water as a sign that they are betrothed.