Arabella, Royal Opera, Covent Garden

The story is of the young girl Arabella who is choosing a future husband. She is not taking the matter seriously and is instead enjoying the game of flirting with several young men at the same time, without committing to any of them.
Her family is in current financial problems so the father (Count Waldner) is interested in finding a wealthy husband that could save the family. He sends a photograph of Arabella to the old and rich officer friend Mandryka. The photo reaches Mandryka’s nephew, also called Mandryka, who is so taken by Arabella’s beauty he decides to courtship her himself. He is in luck because Arabella immediately favours him.
Another deciding factor is Arabella’s sister Zdenka who is brought up as a boy (Zdenko) to save the expense of bringing up a second girl. She secretly falls in love with the young officer Matteo, another of Arabella’s suitors. Matteo does not believe he has much chance to win Arabella so he asks Zdenko for help or else threatens to shoot himself. Zdenka promises to do all in her power to help him out and is handing him letters written by her, but claiming to be written by Arabella.
The plot really thickens when Zdenka, in a desperate move, hands Matteo the key to Arabella’s bedroom claiming that Arabella wants Matteo to visit her. Mandryka overhears this and is understandably disgusted. When the unknowing Arabella returns from a ball, she is confronted and what follows is very touching.
Arabella is the first opera in German that I have seen. During an Italian opera I normally don’t understand anything and have to rely fully on the subtitles. Because I speak a bit German however, I was able to follow the dialogue a bit and this improved the experience a lot.
There was an interesting transformation in Arabella. She started of as a naive young girl playing with the men courtshipping her. In the end she accepts the responsibility and chooses a wealthy husband. Meanwhile, her sister Zdenka who starts of as being the wiser ends up making a foolish mistake and needs her grace to be saved.
It was interesting to see influences from Austrian, German, Polish and Czech cultures in the opera.