Der Rosenkavalier is my favourite of Strauss' operas, and this is coming from someone who loves Strauss' music and listens to it a lot. For productions of the operas, my favourites are the 1962 Schwarzkopf, Rothenberger, Jurinac and Edelmann and 1979 Jones, Fassbaender, Popp and Jungwirth performances. The 1985 TeKanawa, Bonney, Howells and Haughland, 1982 TeKanawa, Troyanos, Blegen and Moll and 1994 Lott, Bonney, Von Otter and Moll performances are also must-sees. This Der Rosenkavalier is my least favourite, but is still worth watching. I was not sure about the brothel setting in the final act, and the conversation between Faninal and Marschallin as they walk past the bed was very miscalculated, mainly because in WW1(in which updates the opera to) people didn't talk like that.
However, the sets on the whole are excellent the best being Faninal's grand hall in Act 2, and the costumes while not as sumptuous as especially the 1985 and 1994 performances are quite good. The video directing is also fine, not too close that you see something like too much sweat or the insides of the singers' nostrils and not too far-away that you don't empathise with the singers and characters. The sound and picture quality are clean and clear. The staging mostly I did not have a problem with, I found Act 2 to be a comic joy really. Some of it is minimalistic, but not so much that the singers can't do much with their roles. Musically, it is superb. The orchestral playing is lush and soaring while giving characters to the Viennesse-Waltz-style tunes. Semyon Bychkov's conducting shows great energy and skill also.
The singing is just as impressive. The weak link is sadly Franz Hawlata. He is definitely not bad as Baron Ochs, he is funny but gives the role some humanity, considering how problematic like Beckmesser from Die Meistersinger Von Nurnberg the character is to play that is an achievement. He is not as ideal vocally however, the voice is good and quite handsome but not sonorous enough, I did get the sense listening to his basso notes that the role was too low for him at times. Franz Grundheber does show signs of vocal wear but characterises Faninal splendidly regardless. Florian Boesch makes for a promising Police Comissioner and Piotr Beczala makes for a droll and beautifully sung Italian Opera Singer.
But it was the ladies that really impressed. Adrianne Pieczonka's Marschallin is moving and nuanced, noble and intense. Her Act 1 monologue is really beautifully sung, she does make the most of the character's sad, wise words. Angelika Kirchschlager is a firm and passionate Octavian, at her best in the Presentation of the Rose scene, though her comic style as Mariandel is a treat as well. As for Sophie, Miah Persson is just perfect, beautiful yet spunky and her voice is one of purity and her high notes in the Trio in particular among the most ethereal of any soprano singing this role. All in all, not definitive but definitely worth a look. 7/10 Bethany Cox
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