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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 25 March 2011
The staging for this Festspiele Baden-Baden production, directed by Herbert Wernicke and conducted by Christian Thielemann, is as sumptuous as Richard Strauss's score and, surrounded by mirrors that amplify the stage, it's as languidly self-reflective as Hugo von Hofmannsthal's original libretto. The choice not to stage it as strictly period in the setting of Marie-Therese's Vienna around 1740 is somewhat contrary to the composers' desire to recreate a sense of the light indulgence of the period (and in the process break away from the dark dissonance of Strauss's previous operas Salome and Elektra), but the libretto and score are, in most sections, strong enough on their own, and so well thematically constructed that Der Rosenkavalier can stand up to a modern, or, in this case, an almost fairy-tale pantomime-like setting.

There is a richness of means by which to enjoy Strauss's most popular opera, which flits from moment to moment, slipping from happiness into despair, from love into comedy, but principally, it is indeed about being in the moment, living in the moment, but that even within the moment there are many contradictory thoughts and emotions pulling at one. All this is contained within the playful storyline and within the music that underscores it. Like all Strauss's work, Der Rosenkavalier takes the language of post-Wagner late-Romanticism opera another stage further into modernity, not just accompanying the voice, not just heightening the emotional tone of the drama or just using leitmotifs to form a musical coherency and symbolism, but presenting the phrasing with an infinite number of meanings and inflections, hinting at deeper underlying psychology and richness of character, living in the moment and crystallising it in melody, but with a deeper consideration for the personality of the characters and particularly in the intricate web that is created through human interaction.

Consequently, nothing is straightforward in Der Rosenkavalier. Strauss is fully aware of the buffa conventions he is playing with, all of which are complementary to the period in opera terms - not least in the Cherubino-style cross-dressing of a travesti female singer playing a male character who dresses up as a female - and he approaches the scoring of the farce with no less detail and underlying thoughtfulness than anywhere else, knowing that - as Ariadne auf Naxos made explicit - that the strength of the work is in how the diparate elements work off each other. Personally, I feel that it's often rather too clever for its own good and, like much of Strauss's work, it's rather distanced, controlled and too precise - much like Thielemann's conducting of the Munich Philharmonic - allowing in little real human feeling or ambiguity, creating a perfect semblance of life like the crystallised silver rose that this production rather ambitiously replaces with a real one at the end.

A sympathetic presentation can nonetheless do wonders with the work, but I'm not entirely convinced by Herbert Wernicke's production, created for Salzburg and played here at the Festspiele Baden-Baden in 2009 with the Munich Philharmonic under Thielemann, but it does at least create a productive environment for the singers. The 1962 film version of Der Rosenkavalier starring Elisabeth Swharzkopf casts a long shadow over the work, but no opera work should ever be considered definitive. Every one of the main performers here - an exceptional cast that includes some beautiful singing and subtle acting from the wonderful, self-possessed and appropriately regal Renée Fleming as the Marschallin, with impressive touches also from Sophie Koch, Diana Damrau and Jonas Kaufmann - brings something interesting to their characters, as does the always interesting Thielemann when interpreting Strauss.

The Blu-ray edition from Decca/Unitel Classica looks and sounds marvellous, the performance directed for the screen by the ever reliable Brian Large. Audio tracks are the usual LPCM stereo and DTS HD-Master Audio 5.1. Subtitles are English, French, German, Spanish and Chinese. The Blu-ray also contains a 32 minute look at the opera from the perspective of the conductor and the main singers, who all provide interesting views on the piece, and a booklet with synopsis and a superb essay on the opera by Bryan Gilmore.
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on 6 January 2015
I’ve got quite a few DVDs and blu-rays of Der Rosenkavalier. They all have things to recommend them, but I don’t really find that any of them are totally satisfactory – certainly not the more recent ones. This new version from Salzburg is however, for me, the best of the lot.

I’m not in principle averse to “concept” productions, but I feel strongly that Der Rosenkavalier is an opera that shouldn’t be mucked around with. It is so deeply rooted in its place and its period that it’s best to leave well alone. In this production, by Harry Kupfer, the action is updated to 1911, the year of its premiere, but otherwise all is as it should be. Any disappointment I had in the change of period, was overcome by the sheer gorgeousness of it all. The staging is quite sparse, with stunning back-projections of Viennese scenes. The Marschallin’s apartments and Faninal’s Stadtpalais are stylish, elegant and opulent – as they should be. The Inn is here a rustic country affair set in a forest and looks very appealing. The direction of the singers is expertly done, with many brilliant touches.

The cast is one of the strongest that I’ve ever seen. Sophie Koch is probably the best Octavian around at the moment, and demonstrates why. Krassimira Stoyanova is superb as the Marschallin – singing radiantly and brilliantly capturing all her various moods – from the coquettish, to the introspective, to the regal. Mojca Erdmann looks the part and acts brilliantly, but is not quite as ideally sweet at the top as she should be. The real revelation here is Gunther Groissbock as Ochs. The performance tradition is for Ochs to be quite elderly, however Strauss and Hofmannsthal originally envisaged someone in his 30s. Groissbock, at 38, is therefore much nearer to the original intentions, but it’s really startling to see such a young, handsome and ultra-hunky Ochs! He is a first-rate actor, and delivers a completely riveting performance, bringing out all the arrogance, insensitivity, lechery, snobbishness, self-obsession etc required to drive the plot, without resorting to the usual grotesque caricature. I’ve also never heard the part sung so well – it sounds quite different sung by a guy at the height of his vocal powers, rather than someone well past their best. Hopefully other younger singers will follow suit and this will be the start of a new performance tradition. All the smaller parts are well taken.

No orchestra plays “Viennese” music quite like the Vienna Philharmonic, even when it’s not real Viennese music! Speeds are generally on the brisk side – the horn “ejaculations” in the Prelude being especially enthusiastic! There are sections of Der Rosenkavalier which can drag a bit in the wrong hands, but Franz Welser-Most keeps things moving along nicely. Having said that, when the score requires things to ease back for a good old wallow, we get that too.

The acid test for me with any performance of Der Rosenkavalier is my emotional reaction to the final section. A good performance will not leave a dry eye in the house. The recent(ish) Baden-Baden version with Renee Fleming etc, was very well sung, but left me completely cold. This version however, reduced me to a blubbering wreck! Totally brilliant!
The sound and pictures are superb (sound is 24-bit PCM Stereo or DTS-HD MA5.0)
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on 25 July 2014
Unfortunately, the Blu-ray version does not play on my equipment.
However, the second 'normal' copy played fine. The opening scenes, the bedroom scene was beautifully played and sung. However, Baron Ochs was anything but an amusing boor. He was a lightweight and basically spoilt every scene he appeared in. Unfortunately Sophie Koch also displayed a disconcerting habit of distorting her mouth when singing which really spoilt her role and singing as Rosenkavalier. I appreciate that audiences in the opera house would not have been exposed to her grimases. Renee Fleming was vocally and visually the consumate artist which she is. I am sorry that her 'pet' attendant had to be a grown up clown instead of the familiar and usually delightful negro boy child. Overall the production was a disappointment, particularly when compared with the older remodelled SChwarzkopf, Rosenberg, Edelmann, Jurinac performance under Herbert v. Karajan.
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on 20 November 2014
Wonderful. René Fmemming singing and interpretation are astonishing.The other singers are also very good.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 14 May 2012
I am giving this 4 stars because of the technical excellence of the singers and the production itself. There are some very good in depth reviews already and I would encourage you to read them as they give a knowledgeable insight into the opera.

My only comment is that this opera is not for me. I prefer opera's like La Boheme, La Travista and Carmen, this opera is like a long string of sung recitatives with only a couple of traditional arias. This is only my opinion and I would not want to put anyone off trying it.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 11 January 2015
As Salzburg productions go, the 2014 Der Rosenkavalier isn't one of their most adventurous, but in almost every area it serves the intentions of the work well. It's the conductor who is in charge of Der Rosenkavalier, and leading the ever impressive Vienna Philharmonic, Franz Welser-Möst's control and management of the score is absolutely stunning, weaving Strauss' complex lines through the singing voices, matching the melodies, the tempo and the sheer majesty of a score whose lyricism and evocation of resonances belies any notion of the work being merely "a Viennese farce and nothing more".

It's immediately apparent that the Salzburg production has a handle on all the essential ingredients. From the overture to the impression that is created by the elegant set for the Marschallin's bedroom in Act I, everything feels right and sounds right. All the more so on account of the singers we have in the roles of Marschallin and Octavian. Sophie Koch is maybe not so sure of voice on the top notes as she once was singing Octavian, but her experience counts. She knows the role well and is better fitted than most to handle the intricacies of this difficult trouser role (ahem, Glyndebourne!). Krassimira Stoyanova is a glorious Marschallin and gives a great performance here. She has an amazing voice that is perfect for big roles like this, and she is simply just one of the best Marschallins in the world at the moment. I don't think there's any particular chemistry between Stoyanova and Koch, but they work together well and bring their own character successfully to the roles.

I was disappointed however by Günther Groissböck's Ochs von Lerchenau. His timbre is lovely and his delivery is perfectly good, but I just couldn't take to him as the baron. He doesn't look right and he doesn't appear terribly comfortable with the part either, focussed on delivery, singing almost entirely without looking at any of the other characters he is interacting with. It's possible I suppose that this is how the role has been directed, Ochs always dominating, the other characters always behind him, subservient to his sense of self-importance. Other than that however, Harry Kupfer's direction is hard to fault. The stage design is classy and elegant, the silver-grey colour scheme giving a sense of a cool nostalgic detachment for an idealised past. Hans Schavernoch's set is made up of large panels and props that glide into position, while large projected photographs of classical Vienna scenes, rooftops and parks place the work perfectly into the essential context of the wider world that the opera is set in.

The stylised version of this cold idealised Vienna contrasts perfectly with the warm richness of the lives and sentiments of the characters within it. Act I and II contrasts noble elegance with vulgar extravagance of marbled ostentation, while Act III doesn't just reveal the darker underside of the comic playing, it practically builds the set around the performers in the location of a misty Prater park, making it feel wholly a part of the wider world. Everything slips into place the way it ought to, as elegantly as Strauss's score falls into place, and the finale is simply gorgeous. Ochs ungraciously fades back into the mist, the Marschallin glides off in her Rolls Royce, leaving Koch's Octavian and Mojca Erdmann's delicately sweet-toned Sophie to break free from the past and look ahead to a new future.
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on 9 February 2015
I love this - a beautiful production with a strong all round cast. The projected settings are never less than stunning. My favourites are the Marschallin staring down an avenue of bare trees in a winter landscape at the end of act 1, and the transformation from the Vienna Riesenrad to the inn in act 3.

To my shame I have never heard of Krassimira Stoyanova, but what a lovely Marschallin. A warm, rich voice and personality, she was never the tragic, drama queen. She looked stunning in the last act in green velvet. Günther Groisböck was an unbelievably young Ochs, and sang superbly. I found his mannerisms a bit iritating, but that may have been intentional! Sophie Koch was as splendid as ever, and Mojca Erdman was a visually ideal Sophie, though some of the high notes seemed a stretch. Special mention should be made of Tobias Kehrer as the Polizeikommissar. A beautiful voice, and very handsome as well!
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on 22 June 2012
I'm sorry that Trev-R wasn't won over by this excellent production, but Strauss can have that effect. I remember taking some friends to a production at Covent Garden with Felicity Lott and them saying very similar things afterwards - "Where are the arias?" "Where are all the hideous murders and consumptive heroines?" etc... Well, we all love that too, but somehow Strauss and Wagner bring out all the emotions in me that it is possible to express. Hard to understand when someone else can't see it - but "thank goodness"....(as my Mum always says)..."that we are all different or it would be a very boring world."
Der Rosenkavalier and Die Meistersinger are the two operas that I have seen 'live' the most and after seeing Felicity Lott (what a shame it wasn't televised, her Marschallin in Vienna was a pale immitation of how she held the House that night) and Renee Fleming at Covent Garden, I never thought I would see any better productions of Der Rosenkavalier than those. However, I was wrong. This is sublime.
I love the production, except the silliness with Mohammed (curiously called a Pierrot in this production; is this just a PC exercise?), but I certainly wouldn't deduct a star for that, when the rest has given such sublime pleasure.
Renee Fleming, well for me she is the Marschallin - sorry but I wasn't old enough to see Schwarzkopf - and her perfomance is exemplary in every respect.
Sophie Koch doesn't look like a teenage boy - but then, how many Octavians do? - but I loved her portrayal. Personally, if I were Octavian, I would have stayed with the Marschallin of Renee Fleming, rather than Diana Damrau's Sophie, but I found much to admire in Damrau's performance.
Franz Hawlata is an excellent Baron Ochs and not over the top as some can be.
Now, no one will buy a Der Rosenkavalier just for the Italian singer (he says, having just ordered Pavarotti's Italian singer on a DVD from the Met!!), but Jonas Kaufmann just blew me away with his hilarious and brilliant performance - he steals the limelight totally in that scene. I can honestly say that it is worth the price of this Bluray just for him; but fortunately the rest of the cast match him in every respect.
Christian Thielemann could have put a little more oomph into the score (which suprised me, because I've always admired his Strauss), but that is just nit-picking. This is a 5-star product, equalled by a 5-star performance and I totally recommend it, but if you don't like Strauss, well, I can't help you with that.
Obviously you realise that I love Der Rosenkavalier, but just for the record, my favourite Strauss opera is Capriccio and I think his materpiece was Elektra (not Die Frau ohne Schatten as some critics claim - I love to court controversy!).
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on 21 December 2011
The only other reviewer at this point of time for this blu ray of Rosenkavalier is Mr.Keris Nine, who as usual has articulated beautifully most of what I would have liked to have written here.

According to me, this is a Fleming/Thielemann show. The other main members of the star cast of Koch and Damrau I am afraid do not really do justice to their roles in either acting or singing. Koch looks strained throughout, and Damrau strains while singing. This is especially evident in the Trio wherein only Fleming's acting and singing saves the day. I am for once, really impressed with the Thielemann conducting... Critics like me, of Thielemann will understand exactly why. He has followed the singers well and brought out velvet from the Orchestra. Oh yes, the tiny part given to Kauffman is cute and he pulls it off well. Hawlata's portrayal of Ochs however, is as crude as it SHOULD be, and I have no complaints about that, although the even more rustic Kurt Rydel does much better in the recording I wish to compare this with below....

I have no real problem with updating of the period, as the Opera can stand at least that much.

I am tempted to compare this with the 'other' blu ray recording of this, Starring Anne Schwanewilms, Kurt Rydl, Oliver Ringelhahn, (Dresden/Luisi). They upped the period by another 50 years or so in that, and that really rankles a bit with cameras with flashes etc. But on the whole, barring Fleming, the singing in that one is a tad superior to this one, plus, the production brings out sensuousness overtly that is slightly underplayed in this Fleming version. No real complaints about that either.... Of the two, Fleming is the more convincing Marschallin... especially her portrayal of the character when alone with Octavian and when with others... the contrast is one that only a mature actor like her who seems to have got into the spirit of Marschallin can really bring out both in acting as well as singing...Kudos Renee

All said and done, Fleming has recorded this for posterity at the absolutely right age, acted beautifully and sung brilliantly.
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on 20 January 2016
This is and all round, glowing, success. The running time is three and a half hours and I intended to view it over two evenings. That proved impossible because of the sublime singing, acting, orchestra playing and appealing modern production. I am going to run out of superlatives in summarising just how good this Blu Ray recording is. I first saw Krassimira Stoyanova in the ROH Eugene Onegin and was immediately impressed with the quality and beauty of her voice, coupled with her mature acting. No surprise then that she is perfect for the role of the Feldmarshallin, where she is regal and sublime. Sophie Koch as Octavian needs no introduction with her long track record of beautiful singing and very talented role interpretation. World class acting by an internationally acclaimed singer is her trade mark. The surprise for me however was Gunther Groisssbock as Ochs. Such a wonderful and amusing portrayal achieved so skilfully without hamming it up. His antics whilst singing to close Act II deservedly won him a huge ovation as the curtain fell. Supported so well by Leopold and the "gang" I should add because together they work the full chemistry of the success of this wonderful Kupfer production. In fact for me the enjoyment of this Rosenkavalier rivals the pleasure I never cease to get from listening to recordings by Schwarzkopf and Lisa Della Casa. And not to overlook the interlude in the salon with the Italian tenor - the Feldmarschallin is quite oblivious of him, whilst she blows on her freshly painted finger nails. The only faint criticism to strike me was that there is no "set up" or menu option on the disc to have subtitles, or to select sound choices e.g. DTS or stereo. Those coming new to Rosenkavalier may find it difficult to have no synopsis or ability to select tracks or sections to play - there is just a full "play" option and no cast list either. But don't let that put you off enjoying, again and again, this marvellous performance in every respect at the Salzburg festival.
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