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And then the transgender flag flies

"Arabella" just goes along with it, as a somewhat dubious existence, as a kind of second-class "Rosenkavalier".

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And then the transgender flag flies

"Arabella" just goes along with it, as a somewhat dubious existence, as a kind of second-class "Rosenkavalier". And it is precisely with this problem opera by Richard Strauss that the director Tobias Kratzer wants to start a Strauss trilogy at Berlin's Deutsche Oper, in which the problematic image of women is to be examined in particular. "Intermezzo" and "The Woman Without a Shadow" will follow.

"Arabella" was the last unfinished collaboration of the very different dream duo Richard Strauss and Hugo von Hofmannsthal. A final, doubtful evocation of a socially worn-out Vienna as the world of finally yesterday. In mid-1933 it was also the first major high culture event of the Nazi era.

The expectations are high, but so is the disappointment. Because it takes one and a half of three acts until this almost four-hour long evening intellectually gets going at all. At first, it looks almost how "Arabella" almost always looks.

Designer Rainer Sellmaier designed a hotel suite plus a superfluous entrance hall that is glamorous down to the last portiere bobble in the pomp of the Ringstrasse. The hyper-realistic room boxes are also moved back and forth. Due to the division of the stage, not everything can be seen, but there are cameras that transfer useless details to a screen.

So here the bartering of the favorite daughter Arabella of the run-down aristocratic couple Waldner to a hulking Croatian magnate takes its course. While the second daughter Zdenka, dressed up as a boy Zdenko for financial reasons, keeps her crush Matteo happy; who, of course, along with a few other applicants, is panting behind the undecidedly cool Arabella.

Plenty of time, then, to experience how pumperlgsund hand-tight at the podium Donald Runnicles drives out the Kakan nostalgia of the weakening score, but how he has no sense for the bubbling vagueness, the abysmal of this world that has actually already been declared dead. And the singing is also extremely average, even annoyingly incomprehensible to the text.

Sara Jakubiak, who is already the second stand-in in the title role, has a wonderfully vibrant soprano for Verismo and Korngold, but is too restless and sharp for the quiet gloss cantilenas required here. Unfortunately, Elena Tsallagova (Zdenka), who is not very charming this time, also lets you hear jagged tips. The indisposed Russell Brown as Mandryka is not a Slavonian bear, at most a clumsy hamster; vocally, too, it's a bit too small for the difficult role.

Robert Watson's Matteo sounds unsteadily thin, problematic even in Thomas Blondelle's Elmerer. Only Doris Soffel, who will soon be celebrating her 50th stage anniversary, is a superb mom with sadomasochistic twist, placing her sentences superbly, as always, a force of presence and depth of character.

After the second act has also started bleakly in front of a wall with three doors to the ballroom, the so strange but beautiful duet was completed today mostly in semidarkness sliding on the floor, in which Arabella Mandryka submits as "my master", finally the scratch director's thinking machine.

And it doesn't produce much more than a suddenly raging timeline: Twenties brides and Nazi henchmen suddenly stray through the dancing fun to the rhythm of the waltz, replaced by Fifties couples, Swinging Sixites models, IPhone influencers - and finally Arabella marches in skin-tight trousers and a bomber jacket in her Color purple into the 21st century.

But did simply the exchange of clothes really change attitudes? The third act shows a completely sober world, empty black and white stage. Zdenka and Matteo are sitting on a bench watching an atmospheric black and white film by Manuel Braun and Jonas Dahl.

As a flashback, he already shows her sex adventure, in which he mistakes her for Arabella, but then takes a liking to her breasts and the strangely still worn Zdenko mustache. At the very end, both of them are forced to come onto the stage with the official transgender flag.

But only because Arabella and Mandryka, being much too old actors, are now acting silly, as if they were Bella now

Everything remains just accessories, seems glued on, disguised. The potential toxicity of this relationship is far from defused. Only a bland conclusion can be drawn about the finale: some remain flat, others have become fluid. Good for you.

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