Saturday, January 30, 2010

Der Rosenkavalier

Last Wednesday we went to Carbondale to see the HD encore broadcast of Rosenkavalier from the Met.  Unfortunately I missed the live transmission but I wanted to see it so made arrangements to be free.  I was not disappointed.  The Met Rosenkavalier is a beautiful production and the performance and cast were spectacular.  I loved every moment.  This is not the first time I had seen this production.  Back, many years ago (I can’t even remember when – late ‘70’s or early ‘80’s) I went to the Met during the Christmas holidays and saw this wonderful production with Kiri Te Kanewa, Tatiana Troyanos, Judith Blegan and Kurt Moll (I think).  It was magical – I was totally transfixed.  We had seats down in the orchestra so I was close and it was like being immersed.  An added benefit to this amazing performance was the playing in the pit of the then new principal oboist Elaine Douvas.  Elaine sparkled and it was some of the most beautiful oboe playing I had ever heard.  So last Wednesday, Elaine was back in that chair and she played just as beautifully.

When you talk about Strauss you cannot ignore the orchestra.  I have actually played some of Rosenkavalier.  I have played the suite of waltzes, which Strauss arranged and I had the unfortunate and unhappy opportunity to play the last act of Rosenkavalier with the Illinois Symphony a couple seasons ago.  I say unfortunate and unhappy because it was a horrid performance.  1st – we never actually played through the entire act in rehearsal.  Amazing for such a difficult score.  And then in performance the conductor could not keep up with all the meter changes and made several major mistakes which just about caused the orchestra to crash.  It was terrible.  But Wednesday evening the orchestra again demonstrated that they are one of the world’s great orchestras (despite a glaring wrong note in the trumpet during the presentation of the rose scene – so, they are human and they do make mistakes – rarely).

I am not going to compare the casts – the Te Kanewa cast to the Fleming cast.  They were different, but both were sensational.  I was moved to tears at times by Rene Fleming and Susan Graham.  And Kristinn Sigmundsson was absolutely magnificent as Baron Ochs.  And, as usual, the compramari and the chorus were terrific.  I especially liked the Duenna, Annina and the Police Captain.  The choristers who were part of Och’s retinue in Act II were GREAT!  Nice job John!

I love a lot of different operas.  But there is a short list of works which are truly profound in that both the music and libretto is brilliant.  Some great operas have lesser librettos (Trovatore comes to mind).  But Hoffmansthal is in the same category for me as Lorenzo da Ponte.  Mozart’s opera are incredible musically, but the libretti are also masterpieces – think of Nozze or Don Giovanni.  Rosenkavalier has a deep and profound libretto by a master writer.  In my view part of the power of the work is in the libretto.  The Marschallin brings us to tears at places, not only because Rene Fleming or Kiri te Kanewa are such wonderful sopranos, or because the music is sublimely beautiful – but because of the text.

Rosenkavalier, in this production, is a wonderful experience.  If you haven’t seen this production watch the Met online service for when they post it and then watch it.  An added benmefit is that the te Kanewa performance is already posted.  Hopefully they will put up the Fleming performance so we can watch them both.

Here is a clip from the te Kanewa production – Act III trio:

And my favorite scene - the presentation of the rose - from Covet Garden - Barbara Bonney and Anne Howells:

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