David Fielding’s designs for the Bar Zodiac in the Hotel Osterreich place the period of his production of Strauss’s opera around the time of its premiere – 1933. Clever and witty, as well as beautifully constructed, they are surely among the best ever seen on the Garsington stage.
Fielding’s production too is right out of the top drawer. Arabella used to be criticised as a rerun of Der Rosenkavalier, musically undistinguished and dramatically Mills and Boon territory. That’s not how it comes over here. Instead, we see a subtle and moving comedy of relationships. Fielding finds hidden depths in the piece and explores them with insight and tenderness.
Musically, the score is in the safe hands of conductor Elgar Howarth, who shines perceptive lights into all sorts of corners and gives the lyrical highlights real radiance. The orchestra plays marvellously.
Between them, director and conductor draw the best out of a strong cast. Orla Boylan’s elegant portrait of the heroine who waits for Mr Right is expertly judged and finely sung. Running her close is Peter Coleman-Wright’s vivid Mandryka, who comes to Vienna from the back of beyond to claim his bride. A few insecurities apart, Cora Burggraaf excels as Arabella’s sister Zdenka while Jeffrey Lloyd-Roberts is touching as her confused beau Matteo.
There are memorable standouts too from Phyllis Cannan and Stephen Richardson as Arabella’s eccentric parents. But it is a terrific ensemble that really reveals the quality of the piece as rarely before.
Garsington, Oxfordshire, June 14-July 6
- Richard Strauss
- David Fielding
- Garsington Opera
- Cast includes
- Orla Boylan, Peter Coleman-Wright, Cora Burggraaf, Jeffrey Lloyd-Roberts
- Running time