Saturday, November 16, 2013

Comic Artists' Night at the Opera - Arabella

The Minnesota Opera generously invites artists and members of the press to dress rehearsals for each show that they premiere.  The Black Hat Collective and I arrive with pens, pencils and paintbrushes and make it out mission to interpret each show through cartoons and sketches.

In this 1932 opera by Ricard Strauss, a family is living far beyond their means in a fancy hotel (pictured).  Their credit has run out and they are in danger of getting kicked out, unless they can get their eldest daughter Arabella to marry somebody with money.

Unfortunately Arabella doesn't want to get married for money, she wants to fall in love.  Though she has a number of suitors, she does not have feelings for any of them.

However, Arabella's younger sister Zdenka (pictured) - who dresses as a boy and goes by the name "Zdenko" - has secretly fallen in love with Mateo (not pictured) - one of the men who pines after Arabella. Zdenka loves Mateo so much that she doesn't want him to be unhappy, so she tricks Mateo by writing him love letters and signing Arabella's name.  As a result, Mateo thinks Arabella is in love with him, when she is not.

Meanwhile, Arabella's father (pictured) had sent a photo of Arabella to a wealthy old friend of his in a desperate attempt to marry her off.  However (luckily, for Arabella) that old friend had already died, so the letter went to his handsome nephew Mandryka instead.

The nephew received the letter while hunting and was so distracted by Arabella's beauty that he got attacked by a bear (pictured).  Mandryka managed to kill the bear but got sent to the hospital, where the only thing he had to keep him company was the picture.  Thus, he has fallen in love with Arabella('s face) and so he comes to see her immediately.

Mandryka is everything Arabella was looking for in a man, he's handsome, he's cool, he fights bears, he's crazy about her.  What's not to like?  Also, Arabella's parents like him because he's rich, which means their problems are solved! Arabella sings about being in love for the first time (pictured).

Unfortunately, now Arabella is going to start telling all of her suitors to buzz off, and Mateo is going to find out that Arabella doesn't really love him and be heartbroken.  To prevent this, Zdenka must take her ruse to the next level!

That night, there is a big party upstairs (pictured), hosted by a chick named Fiakermilli who wears a jockey costume and carries a whip (also pictured).

At the party, Arabella calls in her three suitors of varying size (not pictured) and proceeds to dump them snarkily.  Then Arabella and Mandryka get engaged.

Meanwhile, Zdenko takes Mateo aside and gives him the key to her own bedroom, telling him that it's Arabella's, and that "Arabella" wants him to come "meet her" in that bedroom later.  Hearing this makes Mateo very happy, but Mandryka overhears and gets very upset.

Mandryka is so upset that he goes around knocking things over, sings about how women are fickle, and makes out with Fiakermilli.  He then decides to break up with Arabella and go back home.  Unfortunately, Arabella knows nothing of this.

Offstage, Mateo goes up to Zdenka's room (which he thinks is Arabella's) and has sex with *somebody* in the dark.  When the show returns, we see Mateo leave the room with an added spring in his step.  As he leaves the room, he *passes* the real Arabella.  Mateo has a "how did you get out here so fast?" moment, and Arabella doesn't know what he's talking about.  Mateo has a "was I really that forgettable?" moment, and Arabella is even more confused.

Just then, Mandryka comes in to find Mateo and Arabella talking, and his fears seem to be confirmed.  He yells at Arabella and Mandryka, Mateo, and Arabella's father are all ready to duel each other to the death.  To stop the fighting, Zdenka reveals herself and confesses her ruse.

Mateo realizes that Zdenka has got to be really into him if she was willing to dupe him into having sex.  He realizes that he's got a really good thing going with Zdenka and falls in love with her instead.

Mandryka realizes that he was wrong for doubting Arabella's fidelity.  He sings for a while about how he bets she'll never want to look at him again and how he wants to crawl into the woods and die.  Arabella on the other hand is already over it (because after all, he was tricked), and just wants to get married.  After a brief misunderstanding revolving around a glass of water, they have a little ceremony and go to bed together.


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