Last night’s performance of Richard Strauss and Hugo von Hoffmannsthal’s ARABELLA was utterly delightful. Wonderfully directed by British director Tim Albery (who returns to Dallas in April to stage THE ASPERN PAPERS) and conducted with romantic sweep by Sir Andrew Davis, this was Santa Fe Opera at its best. Long known for its tradition of doing a major (and some minor) Strauss opera nearly every season, this is not an easy opera to pull off. The romantic troubles of a young countess whose family is broke and dependent on her to make a brilliant marriage to save them is a fairly thin story line, but somehow Hoffmannstahl’s text and Strauss’s music make this trivial story compelling.
Erin Wall as “Arabella” was simply radiant (although perhaps her glow was partly because she is several months pregnant, a fact which was cleverly disguised by the costume department.) A former winner of the Dallas Opera Guild Vocal Competition, it was a thrill to hear this wonderful artist in this demanding role. Her duet with soprano Heidi Stober, as her sister Zdenka (disguised as a boy because their impoverished parents cannot afford to raise two daughters) was just one of the musical highlights of the evening.
Another soprano (and another winner of the Dallas Opera Guild Vocal Competition) Kiri Deonarine, sang “Fiakermilli’s fiendishly difficult coloratura aria in the second act with real panache and received a rousing ovation from the audience who were obviously charmed by her performance.
In stunning sets and costumes designed by German designer Tobias Hoheisel, the entire cast seemed inspired.
Tomorrow night is the second of two Apprentice Concerts, designed to showcase the talented young singers who flock here every summer to become the Santa Fe Opera chorus and sing small roles and cover major ones. Last week’s concert revealed a number of extremely promising young artists, so I am really looking forward to tomorrow night’s program.