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53 of 54 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A 'Der Rosenkavalier' of pure gold, 8 May 2005
This review is from: Richard Strauss: Der Rosenkavalier - Royal Opera House 1985 [DVD] [2001] [NTSC] (DVD)
Doubtless some faddish, modernist producer would think this production of Der Rosenkavalier was unnecessarily overdesigned - so lavish are the sets and costumes. They would doubtless have the Marschallin and Octavian dressed in black against a plain white wall - stripping it back to some idea of 'emotional truth' or some other inane concept. I am glad to say there is no such rubbish here - as you may have surmised from Dame Kiri Te Kanawa's costume on the DVD cover. This is indeed a most luxurious production. Sets and costumes are simply wonderful - bringing librettist Hugo von Hofmannsthal's romanticised vision of seventeenth century Vienna to vivid life - they would certainly suggest to me a kind of ideal for Der Rosenkavalier - not an absolute - but Covent Garden clearly threw enough money at this production and threw it in the right directions. Utterly sumptuous and quite, quite beautiful.
This would all, of course, be as nought if the performance itself was not of such a high standard. Happily it is more than up to scratch. In typical Covent Garden fashion, they have cast from strength in even the smallest roles, a true ensemble performance. This is crowned by a collection of principals that it would scarcely be possible to surpass - either today or yesteryear. Anne Howells as Octavian, the Knight of the Rose of the title is excellent - if a little feminine at times. His squirming as Sophie recites his names in Act II, his passion in the Marschallin's bedroom in Act I. Throughout the performance is truly satisfying, well played and beautifully sung.
Barbara Bonney, captured at just the right stage in her career, is a charming and properly youthful Sophie. Not an edge of hardness or strain can be found anywhere in her voice and this is matched by her animated and girlish portrayal. Girlish first in her excitement at the prospect of marriage, then in her fascination with Octavian and her subsequent fear and revulsion of Baron von Ochs - here in the estimable form of Aage Haugland who plays the boorish, self-styled country 'gentleman' for all its worth and singing with an ideal combination of vocal weight and clarity. He also gives off a good, piercing whistle when called for.
Crowning all is the radiantly beautiful Marschallin of Kiri Te Kanawa, again caught at the right time. Just as in her EMI audio recording of the role of a few years later, she provides a detailed animated portrayal. She is as creamily beautiful of voice as the critics have always said - but this isn't the walk-through performance that some critics would have you expect from Kiri. This is a detailed, fully rounded and deeply felt performance. I don't know whether the tears at the end of the first act are real or the device of an actress - they will certainly have been lost on the audience at Covent Garden - but the camera reveals Kiri Te Kanawa the accomplished singing actress. This is utterly cherishable, and an important document of one of the great singers of the twentieth century at her very best.
All is underpinned and brought together by Sir Georg Solti with his special alchemy in the pit. His old orchestra play out of their skins for their former music director. Solti keeps the whole thing moving at an ideal pace, just right for the action - and reminding us in some of the busier passages just who it is in the pit - and that this is from the composer of Elektra and Salome.
The whole thing is transferred faithfully, if a little economically in the NVC/Warner fashion, to DVD. I certainly could have lived with the cost of a second DVD so that a PCM Stereo soundtrack could have been provided - with higher bitrates for a bit better picture. As it is we have the whole opera (at a not inconsiderable length of 197 minutes) on a single sided, dual layer DVD9. The NTSC picture is of course 4:3 in shape and of acceptably high (rather than excellent) quality, and the Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo soundtrack is very nice - which is of more tribute to the original recording and the BBC's microphone placement in the theatre than to any feat of DVD mastering. The slightly miserly DVD treatment (the lack of PCM soundtrack and no PAL version for the UK) from NVC/Warner does not however cost this DVD it's fifth star - the whole thing when played on a good system is suitably immersive to make you forget the age of the recording.
Now, a new Rosenkavalier with Renée Fleming as the Marschallin, Susan Graham as Octavian and maybe Barbara Bonney as Sophie (if she could be tempted to do it again) conducted by someone like Christian Thielemann would be most welcome - especially with 16:9 and DTS surround. That however does not exist and even if it did, I would not let go of this in a hurry. This performance is pure gold.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Der Rosenkavalier, 22 Oct 2000
By 
Willie Gerhardt (Helsingborg, Sweden) - See all my reviews
This 1985 performance is magnificent. Solti's interpretation brings out all the nuances of the score, and the HI-Fi Stereo sound is completely up-to-date. Having listened through a number of performances I unhesitantingly recommends this one as the best! Kiri Te Kanawa as the Marschallin,Ann Howell as the Rosenkavalier, Barabara Bonney as Sophie all sing and act superbly. Aage Haugland has a commanding voice, and shows the complex character of the rough yet humoristic Baron Ochs incredibly well. This performance is simply superb and a must for the opera lover!
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I was in the audience !!, 18 Dec 2011
By 
Amazon Customer "amfoster13" (Maidenhead, United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Richard Strauss: Der Rosenkavalier - Royal Opera House 1985 [DVD] [2001] [NTSC] (DVD)
I was in the audience the night this was recorded at Covent Garden and it still remains one of the most memorable performances I have ever seen/heard.
All other performances and recordings I hear are judged against this one, to my mind it is close to perfect. The production has no strange or weird things as is so typical of today; it is set and dressed in the correct period for the piece. The set is wonderful, particularly act 3.
The singing is the best you will hear, Dame Kiri is at her peak and perfect for the role. Barbra Bonney is a beautiful young and fresh Sophie, Anne Howells is Laddish without the over acting this part often suffers from with other singers. Solti is the Master of Strauss.
The direction is so real and natural that the characters feel like real people with real emotions and that comes across in the singing. The expression on Dame Kiri's face at the end of the Act 3 trio says it all.
It is not an old fashioned production, it is a classic; and will always be so.
This is true grand opera before directers/conductors came up with their "concepts" and desperate attempts to make the work their own rather than the composers.
If you like your opera beautifully produced, extremely well sung and without any of the oddities which now plague so many productions, this is my recommendation.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Superb production, 8 Sep 2013
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This review is from: Richard Strauss: Der Rosenkavalier - Royal Opera House 1985 [DVD] [2001] [NTSC] (DVD)
Over 25 years old this production still retains its magic and brilliance. Well worth the price. I never tire of watching it.
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4.0 out of 5 stars It is a very good performance, 8 Mar 2013
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This review is from: Richard Strauss: Der Rosenkavalier - Royal Opera House 1985 [DVD] [2001] [NTSC] (DVD)
Everything Te kanawa does is fantastic and the scenery and costumes are excellent as always at Covent Garden.
I an inclined to recommend it to persons not used to Strauss`music.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A dynamic traditioal performance, 18 Feb 2013
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This review is from: Richard Strauss: Der Rosenkavalier - Royal Opera House 1985 [DVD] [2001] [NTSC] (DVD)
This is a opera which takes a bit of getting used to.The costumes and performances are very good and Solti is at his peak in getting the music across.It really shines after a couple of viewings.
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4 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A ravishing production, 16 Feb 2008
By 
Aquinas "summa" (celestial heights, UK) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Richard Strauss: Der Rosenkavalier - Royal Opera House 1985 [DVD] [2001] [NTSC] (DVD)
This is a lovely old fashioned production. I only give it four stars however because, whilst the opera has some great music (say 1 - 1.5 hrs out of 3 hours), there is simply too much musical padding to make it a trully great opera. Yes, the trio near the end is stunning and the orchestration is at times ravishing; it just is exhausting to watch at the opera house, too many; "God, this is dragging" moments. And, if you are at the Royal Opera House (and I saw a later incarnation of this production there), the dragging moments are fairly painful given the close confines of the seating!
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