We take a look at Strauss's Der Rosenkavalier. Subscribers can watch now on Glyndebourne Encore.
Our Opera of the Month for March on Glyndebourne Encore is Richard Jones’s stylish production of Strauss’s Der Rosenkavalier.
Over on Glyndebourne Encore, subscribers can watch Der Rosenkavalier in full, and enjoy an exclusive introduction from opera specialist Alexandra Coghlan who talks to Musicologist John Deathridge and costume designer Nicky Gillibrand to explore the opera.
A brief introduction
Set in a fantasy 18th-century Vienna, Richard Strauss’s Der Rosenkavalier is an intricate Rococo delight of a comedy, gilded in some of the composer’s most exquisite music. ‘I have spent three quiet afternoons drafting…the scenario for an opera,’ wrote librettist Hugo von Hofmannsthal. ‘It is full of burlesque situations and characters, with lively action, pellucid almost like a pantomime. There are opportunities in it for lyrical passages, for fun and humour.’
The Field Marshall’s wife is in love with the young Count Octavian Rofrano, but knows their liaison cannot last. When the young man meets the beautiful Sophie she understands that she must give him up to her rival, and give her blessing to the marriage that will secure his happiness. But her cousin, the lusty Baron Ochs, also has designs on Sophie and her father’s wealth, and the young lovers must scheme and plot to extricate Sophie from her engagement to the boorish Baron.
A sensuous score Strauss himself compared to ‘melted butter’ runs thick with golden strings and sparkling woodwind, conjuring a fairytale-like romance from a plot that blends comedy and tragedy to intoxicating effect.
Why not to miss this production
Lively with bold designs and colours, Richard Jones’s ‘magnificent and witty’ production captures both the pastel-coloured prettiness of 18th-century Vienna and the anarchic, contemporary humour of Strauss’s romantic comedy. The result is a riot of sensation and excess – a musical and dramatic feast.
Strauss’s love-affair with the female voice persisted throughout his career, but nowhere is it celebrated with more sensuality and tenderness than in the expansive music of Der Rosenkavalier and its heroine – no pert ingénue, but a mature, sexually-confident woman.
Richard Jones’s time-travelling production moves gently through the centuries, taking us from Rococo Vienna via the eve of WWII right through to mid-century modernity. But while fashions change (stylishly captured in Paul Steinberg’s sets and Nicky Gillibrand’s storybook costumes) society remains forever the same.
A great moment to look out for:
The opera’s famous trio, in which the Marschallin releases Octavian to marry his beloved Sophie, brings together three female voices in an ecstatic, bittersweet ensemble that is at once a reluctant parting and the magical beginning of a new relationship. As beautiful as it is heartbreaking, it’s one of opera’s greatest moments.
Strauss’s love for the female voice is never more ecstatically expressed than here in the sensual, bittersweet interweaving of three upper voices. The mature regret of the Marschallin, still young herself, meets the passionate love of Sophie and Octavian in a perfect moment of musical and dramatic synthesis.
Cast and creative team
Glyndebourne’s Music Director Robin Ticciati conducts the London Philharmonic Orchestra ‘with a sure feel for the ebb and flow of Strauss’s score’, mining a wealth of detail from this glittering score. Hailed as ‘the most graceful of Marschallins’ and praised for her ‘silk-smooth voice’, award-winning soprano and Glyndebourne favourite Kate Royal leads an exciting cast in one of Strauss’s greatest roles.
Irish mezzo-soprano and Metropolitan Opera regular Tara Erraught – ‘a spirited comedian’ who ‘sings with vibrant assurance’ – dons breeches as the Marschallin’s puppyish young lover Octavian, while German bass Lars Woldt (‘pitch perfect’, ‘a boor not a bore’) is his rival, the libidinous Baron Ochs. Soprano Teodora Gheorghiu presents a ‘doll-like’ picture of ‘winsome innocence’ as Octavian’s beloved Sophie, with cameos from Helene Schneiderman and Christopher Gillett as the scheming Annina and Valzacchi.
Image credits: Der Rosenkavalier, Festival 2014, photos by Bill Cooper