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Der Rosenkavalier (Haitink)
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4 of 8 people found the following review helpful
This opera differs from earlier compositions by Verdi. Puccini etc in that, like Wagnerian works, the music flows without being truncated by spectacular arias. The success of the musical flow depends very much on the artistry and that is very very good in this production without reaching the heights of some others. Anne Schwanewilms performed nicely in the very long first act but was not as convincing to me as others have been in that role. However Kurt Rydl gave an outstanding performance acting and singing the pompous Baron, injecting great humour into this Strauss work. The other female roles were more successfully filled by Anke Vondung and Maki Mori with some beautiful duets and trios. The orchestra came through strongly, a little too much so relative to the singers making their efforts less impressive. In common with most of the Dresden Staatsopernchor productions the settings have been modernized and this does not seriously detract from the atmosphere although I did miss the more sumptuous costumes usually associated with this work. Having a woman play the role of a man is always challenging to the imagination but this is overcome, to some extent, in this opera when such beautiful music results. However it is not a work that is likely to be appreciated by those first dipping their toes into opera. The waltz is well known but otherwise the music would be unfamiliar and it is only past the long first act that the action and music become more appealing. In summary, a very enjoyable production I would not class this among the greats so recommended with caution.
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2 of 13 people found the following review helpful
Richard Strauss humbly announced this opera as some kind of musical comedy. And we must say that the theme and the action are nothing more than a good old bourgeois comedy if not a vaudeville. But it is charming in a way. A page and confindent, Octavian, is the centre of the comedy. In love with and loved by his mistress, the Feldmarshallin, he is used, disguised as a chambermaid, which is easy since he is impersonated by a mezzosoprano, to titillate and also highjack onto a false trail the gross, philandering and greedy Baron Ochs, the well named Baron Ochs, both bovine and sterile. But this same Octavian will become the Rosenkavalier sent by the Feldmarshallin in the name of Baron Ochs to the young daughter Sophie of the very rich Herr von Faninal to propose the very badly matched wedding of the aforesaid Baron Ochs with the very reluctant Sophie who in the meantime falls in love with the charming Rosenkavalier who does the same in return. And it will all end well because Baron Ochs will be trapped in an inn and his multiple marriages will be exposed, thus accusing him of at least bigamy, which will make him run away. A comedy, nothing but a comedy revealing how money is no guarantee against the immorality of feudal practices. In fact it may even make them worse. Luckily love is there to clean up the plate and make things right. So what made this musical comedy of sorts such a success as an opera for one full century ? We may wonder, and yet the answer is simple. The very first reason is the depicting and staging of the feudal Germanic society of Maria Theresias in the middle of the 18th century when Europe is agitated by the Enlightenment, when Germany is already feeling the growing Sturm und Drang that is pushing feudal practices aside and replacing them with new ethics. And Richard Strauss keeps some cute nostalgic customs, like the Rosenkavalier, some kind of go-between of old, and highjacks them to vindicate love in the place and state of feudal arrangements and monetary greed and vanity. In other words it is quaint and it enables the Germans to forget about the looming up first world war that will be coming soon after the opera was created in Vienna on April 8, 1911. And it will become classic since it depicts the Germans as highly light, moral, humane, lovable, the very antithesis of what will develop and triumph to finally fall down ignominously from the 1920s to 1945. An acceptable and charming image of these our friends the Germans, the Austrians. In other words the light side that can counterbalance the very austere wagnerian side, especially when read in a nationalistic direction or distortion, the light side of Mozart's operas, and first of all Figaro's Wedding, to which it is akin by the theme and treatment. But that is not enough, far from it, to explain the phenomenal success of this opera. The music is of course the main reason. And what a music ! First of all, to clear the way for the rest, I will regret the only thing I find kind of easy. Octavian should have a masculine voice and be an alto instead of a feminine mezzosoprano. It makes his role unclearly ambiguous. We should have a page disguising as a chambermaid and then becoming the Rosenkavalier. Instead we have a mezzosoprano disguising as a page, then disguising as a chambermaid, then disguising as a Rosenkavalier and then mimicking love for Sophie. But the music is a lot more than that. The music is systematically anachronic for the 18th century, but who cares in the 20th century, and what's more today in the 21st century. It is light, dancelike and waltzy all the time and all along, from the light whirling and whorling mozartlike tunes everywhere to the real waltzes in the best straussian Viennese tradition. But Strauss also borrows some more exotic and entertaining forms with Italian singers and some popular tunes here and there, or at least tunes that sound as if they were coming out of some public house. But the best achievement of this music is its very high degree of dramatic construction. The music is used to give each character his or her personal depth, and each situation, each scene and each moment in each scene, their flavour and taste, their discursive value. That is probably the most attractive charm of this opera. We can literally let the music flow and forget about the words, the voices being a set of human instruments that join their harmonics to those of the orchestra to tell us a story that is displayed in front of our eyes through the circumvolutions of the measures that mesmerize our ears, due not to too many notes, nor too many instruments, but quite a few nevertheless if not many, just like a meadow scattered with thousands of colourful flowers.

Dr Jacques COULARDEAU, University Paris Dauphine & University Paris 1 Panthéon Sorbonne
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