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Sublime singing, boring staging

Vienna State Opera
01/12/1999 -  
Richard Strauss Der Rosenkavalier
Felicity Lott (Princess von Werdenberg, The Marschallin), Kurt Moll (Baron Ochs auf Lerchenau), Anne Sofie von Otter (Octavian), Juliane Banse (Sophie), Geert Smits (Herr von Faninal), Ilonka Szep (Marianne), Wilfried Gahmlich (Valzacchi), Nelly Boschkowa (Anina), Alfred Sramek (Police Commissioner), Franz Kasemann (Marschallin’s Majordomo), Christian Bauer (Faninal’s Majordomo), Wolfgang Bankl (An Attorney), Robert Nagy (A Singer), Renate Gutsch, Ulrike Erfurt, Eliza Zurmann (Three Noble Orphans), Utal Schwabe (A Milliner), Ulrich Großrubatscher (An Animal Vendor), Peter Jelosits (An Innkeeper), Alexander Pinderak, Johann Reinprecht, Wolfgang Scheider, Gottfried Kudrna (Four Footmen), Robert Werner, Andre Potgieter, Friedrich Springer, Gerhard Eder (Four Waiters)
Otto Schenk (Director), Rudolf Heinrich (Set Designer), Erni Kniepert (Costume Designer), Ernst Dunshirn (Chorus Director)
Orchestra of the Vienna State Opera, Leopold Hager (Conductor)

Economy was clearly the theme of this evening, at least as far as the somewhat faded period-style production was concerned, premiered more than 30 years ago (1968). Fortunately the musical side compensated a great deal for the rather boring, unimaginative staging. As for the individual performances, the evening clearly belonged to Felicity Lott and Anne Sofie von Otter. Lott's portrayal of the Marschallin was a superb combination of singing and acting, very elegant and feminine and perfectly conveying the character's feelings and psychological insights.

Anne Sofie von Otter's playful, ardent Octavian was a joy from start to finish. Not only was she in splendid voice, but she also looked and acted exceedingly well. Her love scenes with the Marschallin and later Sophie were totally convincing, and her embarrassment and confusion in the final scene were very touching. And she also revealed quite a comic streak as Mariandl.

Praise must also go to Kurt Moll whose Ochs is a thorough-going, deeply considered characterisation, sung with a beautiful, rich bass sound and total command of the text and never overplaying the boorish aspects of the part. Juliane Banse offered a charming, temperamental Sophie, but her voice is already too big to really suit this role. The smaller roles were competently cast. Geerts Smits was a dignified Faninal, and Nelly Boschkowa and Wilfried Gahmlich made a pleasantly unexaggerated pair of intriguers. Ilonka Szep turned in a sympathetic duenna, and Robert Nagy made a fine house debut in the role of the Italian Tenor.

Leopold Hager conducted with colour and fluency, and the orchestra produced the smooth, blooming sound for which it is so famous - a particular joy to the ear in this piece.

Bettina Maani



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