Monday, July 09, 2007

More comments on Rosenkavalier

A friend has asked me to say more about Rosenkavalier.

I felt that the Swedish soprano Miah Persson was made up much too sophisticated and grown up in Rosenkavalier to be believable with the very young looking DiDonato. I saw Persson in London as Susanna, a role for which she is well suited. The same woman singing Susanna and Sophie? I guess it happens. Kathleen Battle did it. Susanna is almost a character part, a lyric soprano. Anna sings her and she is virtually dramatic, but she does it because Susanna gets all the sexy bits. Sophie is definitely a soubrette, the high voice in the ensemble, and I don't hear Persson in that Fach at all. Her Sophie came across as pretty sophisticated and arrogant. Sophie's arrogance must be perceived as charming and naive, and I didn't feel that.

The scenes are long. When they are familiar, as they certainly are with me, every note is part of a familiar dance where you know all the steps. The last act definitely goes on too long. Once Ochs says "Leopold, wir gaenge!" he should leave, but there's ten minutes more of music. Strauss just wants to compose more notes. It doesn't really work.

In her blog Joyce DiDonato comments about Kristinn Sigmundsson's portrayal of Ochs and his concern to make him seem more fully human. What is one to make of this upper class gentleman from the country? The Marschallin is polite to him while considering him beneath her. I think Strauss and Hofmannsthal are working against Sigmondsson. Sophie needs to feel like a victim so we will rejoice when she is rescued by Octavian, so Ochs must feel like a fate worse than death. We need to be appalled when he sings, "Keine Nacht wird zu lang." If Sophie is a bitch and Ochs is a nice guy, will we care at all? The entire opera is really from Octavian's perspective.

It is an opera of relationships between the four characters: Octavian, The Marschallin, Baron Ochs and Sophie. To everyone except the Marschallin Octavian must feel sophisticated and in charge, at least that's how I always feel it. He is already a popular public figure, or why else do the crowds cry out his name in the presentation of the rose scene?

The Marschallin is the deus ex machina who swoops in and rescues all from the chaos Octavian has created. It is a complex dance with a great many steps. It is pleasing even when it isn't perfect.

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