Sunday, March 09, 2008

Zurich Der Rosenkavalier



I am comforting myself with this DVD of Der Rosenkavalier from the Zurich Opera.

The second act is completely incongruous. We are expected to believe that Herr von Faninal is so completely middle class that he entertains the Count Rofrano and the Baron Ochs in his kitchen. No one is that middle class. And von Faninal uses the kitchen appliances? How are we possibly to believe this? Octavian stabs the Baron with a kitchen knife.

At the inn in the third act Octavian and the Baron sway back and forth in time to the waltz music. This Rosenkavalier is a fairy tale of no particular time and place.

The best bit in this whole production comes when the plot is unraveling and Sophie sees the relationship between Octavian and the Marschallin, she unselfconsciously walks over and puts her hand on the Baron's shoulder.

I have long suspected that I needed to see Vesselina Kasarova as Octavian. I could not have been more right. It is her masterpiece. She dominates the action as no one I have seen before. And I've seen a few of these.

Each actor is bringing us new insights. The unusual production makes this possible. Rosenkavalier is almost always choreographed with extreme precision according to ancient tradition, but not here. Without violating the meaning of the piece, each scene is not what we are used to. For instance, I have never seen it begin with the Marschallin and Octavian already out of bed.

Our Marschallin is not so brave. In moments of crisis she faints. Nina Stemme is not the best singing Marschallin I've seen, but she is the most tragic and emotional. She does not quite believe how well she has predicted this day. Today or tomorrow or the next day.... In the action she actively blesses the union of Octavian and Sophie, something I have never seen before.

Malin Hartelius is perfect for Sophie, serious and only a little bit arrogant. When she finally marries, it will be as a grown woman with her eyes open.

How can I possibly describe the Ochs of Alfred Muff? If he were not precisely this big a pig, we would surely love him. Life moves only forward. Sophie knows that she may have made a mistake. (There is no way I could possibly have gotten to Cleveland.) She pulls herself together for the happy ending, and briefly we hear the theme for "when was I ever this happy" from the presentation scene. When she sings "It's a dream, can't be real," we somehow know that she is right.

The magic flows together at the end, as indeed it must for a truly successful Rosenkavalier. When it comes time to wail, they do. If you can bear the unusual bits, it is a truly beautiful Rosenkavalier.

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