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 Post subject: Der Rosenkavalier at the Met in NYC - A Review
PostPosted: Tue May 16, 2017 1:25 pm 
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10. Troll Hammer
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The Met’s highly anticipated and gorgeously designed production of R.Strauss's Der Rosenkavalier was livestreamed in HD to cinemas across the US on Saturday May 13th. Luckily for me, my favorite movie theater was one of those participating and I was able to haul my butt out of bed at 9am in time to catch the livestream which started at 9:30am.

It was awfully early in the morning for opera, but this production was absolutely worth it.

Here is a synopsis of the plot of Der Rosenkavalier, in brief:

The opera has four main characters: the aristocratic Marschallin, her very young lover Count Octavian Rofrano (a "trouser role", which I'll explain below), her coarse cousin Baron Ochs and Ochs' prospective fiancée Sophie von Faninal, daughter of a rich bourgeois. At the Marschallin's suggestion Ochs gets Octavian to act as his Rosenkavalier (Rose Bearer) and present the ceremonial silver rose to Sophie. But when Octavian meets Sophie they fall in love at first sight. By a comic intrigue they get rid of Ochs with the help of the Marschallin, who then yields Octavian to the younger woman. Although a comic opera, Der Rosenkavalier also operates at a deeper level. Conscious of the difference in age between herself and Octavian, the Marschallin muses in bittersweet fashion over the passing of time, growing old and men's inconstancy.

As mentioned above, the role of Octavian is a "trouser" or "pants" role, which means a male role played by a female singer. In this case, Octavian is written as a mezzo-soprano, whereas the female characters are both sopranos.


There is actually an unfinished fic here on the Kitten Board called "Butterfly" that uses Der Rosenkavalier as a set piece for Willow and Tara falling in love. It's not a perfectly written story, it's clear that English is the writer's second language and this causes some odd phrasing and sentence structure at times. But the writer is also an opera singer herself, and brings not only her experience and knowledge to the story, but also a lovely lyrical quality to her descriptions. It's worth a read, and I recommend it, as long as you don't mind it's unfinished.


But I digress... back to my little review of the Met's production.

When the curtain goes up, rather than seeing the Marschallin and Octavian lolling in bed after a night together, as the libretto indicates, we see Octavian emerge into a hallway from large bedroom doors, looking delirious from thrilling sex. He wanders around and lights a cigarette. The Marschallin, in a lacy cream nightgown, joins him, beaming. After some lustily sung back and forths, they end up embraced on the floor, on the verge of "another round". Unfortunately, that annoying time-piece the rising sun interrupts their fun, much to Octavian's frustration.

Renee Fleming plays the Marschallin and she is utterly divine as the aging princess; not just for all the melting lyricism, subtle expressivity and emotional vulnerability of her singing. She has long been one of the finest actresses in opera and, for this production, directed by Robert Carsen, the Met has given Ms. Fleming a cast of singers with which she can really act.

Especially the mezzo-soprano Elina Garanca, a revelation as Octavian, the 17-year-old count with whom the older, married Marschallin is having an affair. With her short, fair hair and androgynous allure, Ms. Garanca is eerily convincing in the role of a randy adolescent boy, and her plush, sensual voice is ideal for this vocally demanding music. Believe me when I say that Ms. Garanca is the finest Octavian I have ever seen.

The villian Baron Von Ochs is often played by an older singer and made to look ridiculously oafish. This production’s Ochs is the Austrian bass Günther Groissböck, who is 40, square-shouldered and imposing, which lends complexity to the character. The baron, who crudely boasts to the Marschallin of amorous adventures with servants, suddenly seems more dangerous, less laughable.

The sweet-voiced soprano Erin Morley makes an utterly charming Sophie. The miraculous love-at-first-sight duet when Octavian, on behalf of the baron, presents a silver rose to Sophie as a token of her engagement was sung with shimmering sound and impressively focused tone by Ms. Morley and Ms. Garanca. Of course, Sophie is appalled when she meets Ochs, who treats her like chattel.

Ultimately, of course, Sophie and Octavian end up together - she free of the Baron, he free of the Marschallin - and this production unusually, but still perfectly, ends with them caressing each other in bed.

The chemistry between Ms. Morley and Ms. Garanca came through in their every exchange and it wasn't difficult to be swept up by the characters obvious desire for each other.

https://youtu.be/waSk776rZEo

What makes Der Rosenkavalier so spectacular an opera isn't just the incredibly complex and beautiful music, but also the risks Richard Strauss and Hugo von Homannsthal took in making a trouser role the romantic lead. This had never been done before. The closest comparison is Cherubino in Mozart's The Marriage of Figero. But this is more of a farce and, although a key player, Cherubino is definitely not a lead - romantic or otherwise. Also unusual was how openly sexual the characters of Der Rosenkavalier are. It's one thing to leap around on stage in a foolish manner "pantomiming" skirt chasing, or what-have-you. But Strauss and von Homannsthal wrote one of the most decadently sensual and sexy opening sequences of any opera to date and it happened to be between two women (ok, one playing a man, but still...). It was so controversial that the Royal Opera of London refused to allow the opera to be staged as written - so their premiere production featured the Marschallin and Octavian fully dressed, standing at a distance to each other and singing out directly to the audience. How romantic.


Luckily for us, the Met's production wears it's sexuality on it's lavishly-designed sleeve.

There is an encore presentation of the livestream on May 17th.

If you're in a position to go... do it.

Cheers!
DW

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 Post subject: Re: Der Rosenkavalier at the Met in NYC - A Review
PostPosted: Wed May 17, 2017 8:55 am 
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3. Flaming O
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I'll tell you what, that Elina Garanča is a hottie either way. I caught her in Barber of Seville at the Met a while back. And she was pretty spectacular.


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 Post subject: Re: Der Rosenkavalier at the Met in NYC - A Review
PostPosted: Wed May 17, 2017 9:13 am 
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10. Troll Hammer
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Quote:
I'll tell you what, that Elina Garanča is a hottie either way.


Agreed. Did you see her Carmen? Yowza. :o :drool

DW

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 Post subject: Re: Der Rosenkavalier at the Met in NYC - A Review
PostPosted: Wed May 17, 2017 9:27 am 
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3. Flaming O
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DarkWiccan wrote:

Agreed. Did you see her Carmen? Yowza. :o :drool

DW

I did not. But I'm pretty sure that NY public Library has a recording from that season.


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