Der Rosenkavalier

Der Rosenkavalier at San Francisco Opera

Sfoperabalkon* Notes *
Der Rosenkavalier opened June 9th at San Francisco Opera, but so far I have only managed to go last Sunday and yesterday. Lofti Mansouri's revived production, designed by Thierry Bosquet in 2000, is just as one would expect, and was based on the original 1911 Dresden premiere. Donald Runnicles conducted well, the orchestra was together, the tempi were lively but not too fast either. The singing was fine, especially Joyce DiDonato as Octavian. Her German could use a bit of work, but her portrayal was nuanced and beautiful. Soile Isokoski was lovely as the Marschallin on June 24th, though perhaps a bit cold. Martina Serafin was more shrill when she sang the role on June 27th, and she had a little too much vibrato, but she still was quite moving. Miah Persson was a feisty Sophie, her voice is pleasing and clear. Kristinn Sigmundsson was hilarious as Baron von Ochs, his voice sounded better in this role than as the Commendatore. Robert McPherson strained a lot as the Italian singer, the music was pretty, but he made it seem so difficult.

* Tattling *
During the Sunday performance, a man was stretched out on the floor behind the balcony standing room. He fell asleep, which would be fine by me, except that he snored rather loudly.

There was plenty of whispering during the Wednesday performance, and one very loud woman in W 118 of the orchestra. At some point she mentioned she was syphilitic, though I believe she was joking. Despite hushings, she was only quiet when she propped her elbows on the seat in front of her to look through her binoculars. I did not ask her to stop, as I was relieved she was no longer speaking. Again, perhaps it was my outfit, I need to work a more schoolmarmish look:


Der Rosenkavalier Final Dress Rehearsal

* Notes *
My enthusiasm for opera is well-known enough for the people around me to have picked up on it. It was my good fortune to be given a staff guest ticket for the final dress rehearsal of Der Rosenkavalier last Wednesday. I have been to dress rehearsals before, but only in the Grand Tier or Dress Circle, so I was looking forward to seeing what happened down on the Orchestra level where the production team is.

The experience made it evident just how many people it takes to get a production to its final state. I sat behind the wardrobe people, and there were such a lot of them discussing how the costumes looked and what adjustments needed to be made.

The production is standard fare, much like Thierry Bosquet's other work I have seen. The set involved trompe-l'œil, just like his 1997 Tosca, 1990 Die Fledermaus, and 2000 Don Giovanni. All the singing was good, Joyce DiDonato seems like a fine Octavian and Kristinn Sigmundsson sounds better as Baron Ochs than as the Commendatore. The orchestra also sounded quite together.

* Tattling *
The production team spoke a great deal during the rehearsal, as is to be expected. One of the best things I overheard was one woman telling the tailor "That cravat is amazing!"

I must admit, I am not terribly fond of Richard Strauss or of this particular opera. The first time I heard it, I was struck by how dissonant certain parts are. But after this third go, I was able to to find something in it that was moving.

Der Rosenkavalier at Seattle Opera

CarolvanessDieter Kaegi's production of Der Rosenkavalier was revived in Seattle last month. I remember seeing posters for the 1997 performances, in which Angelika Kirchschlager sang the role of Octavian. Alice Coote made her Seattle debut in the role this time around, and her voice was strong. She is petite next to Carol Vaness, but had a suitable boyish demeanor. Julianne Gearhart was cloying as Sophie, her voice so bright it was almost as if she was making fun of the role. Peter Rose was hilarious as Baron Ochs, he danced well, but his low notes were muddled. Carol Vaness was surprisingly inoffensive as the Marschallin, though her diction left something to be desired and she didn't have terribly good control, her acting wasn't bad.

The production itself was quite standard, the set was not elaborate but still traditional. The costumes were beautiful, all in fine rococo style. The choreography was overwrought at times. Baron Ochs' footmen got into many antics in the background, piling into the Marschallin's bed during Act I and chasing the help in Act II. Also in Act II, Valzacchi and Annina sneaked into Herr von Faninal's house and pretty much did a dance with vases while Sophie and Octavian proclaim their love for each other. While these foibles had some humor in them, in the end they were distracting and did not go with the music.

Der Rosenkavalier

BsorosenkavalierThe only reason I went to hear Richard Strauss's Der Rosenkavalier at the Bavarian State Opera was because Felicity Lott and Angelika Kirchschlager were singing. Good thing I didn't go to hear Walter Fink, for he fell ill and his part was sung by Artur Korn. I am not fond of R. Strauss, though I was surprised by his Ariadne. Der Rosenkavalier has some much more modern elements that I did not enjoy, such as grinding noise maker and wind chime sounds. Sometimes the music was high-flown and melodramatic, sometimes simply noise, sometimes charmingly waltzy with a hysterical edge.

The set was the most beautiful I have ever seen. It was as if they had stolen a couple of rooms out of the Wittelbach residences. The Rococo splendor of the first two acts was highly impressive. Act I was in the Feldmarschallin's bedroom, and the walls were covered with painted scenes, the room was all pale green, ivory, and gold, with beautiful carved doors in the center. The floor was covered with a light green carpet, with ivory flowers at the edges. Act II was in a receptional hall within the Faninal residence, and it was light blue, ivory, and gold, with all manner of elaborate cupids and garlands decorating the walls, which also had cabinets filled with porcelain. The center doors were glass, revealing a staircase in the background. The floor was painted to look like a yellowish marble. Act III looked like the set to La Boheme.

The costumes were just as beautiful as the set. The choreography was pretty good, Kirchschlager as a good presence and a clear boyishness perfect for Octavian. Lott moves elegantly as the Feldmarschallin. Korn played the unctous Baron quite well also. The worst choreography was when Octavian brings the rose to Sophie, he enters through the center doors, and she faces away from him toward the audience, face expectant, leaning forward with arms out as if ready to take flight. This was awkward and ugly. She also stamped her feet a lot.

As for the singing, Lott's clear, cold soprano was quite nice with Kirchschlager's warmer, mezzo tones. Bass Korn wasn't bad, but his timing seemed somewhat off. Soprano Heidi Grant Murphy made a good Sophie, her sweet voice sounds young, though almost a bratty whine at times. Her voice was a little quiet, especially in contrast to her maid's. Also, tenor Eduardo Villa was back in an opera playing a singer once again. We last saw him in Die Fledermaus as an opera singer. His voice is exceptionally pretty.

I should mention this production had two small dogs in it, in Act II, handled by one Manolito Mario Franz. They were very well behaved. Bravi!