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55 of 56 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A 'Der Rosenkavalier' of pure gold, 8 May 2005
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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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Showing 1-3 of 3 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 18 May 2010 23:55:08 BDT
Der Rosenkavelier: Munich Philharmonic (Thielemann) [DVD] [2009]

try that one.

In reply to an earlier post on 14 Feb 2011 15:16:30 GMT
Eli Crund says:
Another of the "I want to see every production of every opera the same way I saw it before" brigade. Pitiful. Opera is theatre and theatre evolves. Bring on the interventionist directors - I want to be challenged. This production is now terribly old fashioned. We have moved on....for the better.

In reply to an earlier post on 14 Feb 2011 15:17:39 GMT
Eli Crund says:
The new Decca version is superb, though quite an old production also.
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