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Subject: Rosenkavalier 4/24
From: "Max D. Winter" <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:Max D. Winter
Date:Wed, 26 Apr 2017 15:14:38 -0400
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I saw the Met's new Rosenkavalier on 4/24.  Some comments:

Musically, the performance was excellent.  Renee Fleming sounded luscious, although for 
the most part she avoided singing full-out.  If she is bowing out (from staged performances) 
with this one, she's making quite an exit.  And, of course, she looked beautiful, particularly 
in the production's drop-dead gorgeous costumes.

Elina Garanca was outstanding as Octavian, not only singing beautifully but making one of 
the most convincing young men I've ever seen a mezzo portray.  Erin Morley's Sophie was 
exquisite, and Gunther Groissbock's Ochs was stentorian and suitably loathesome, 
dramatically.  No weak links in the rest of the cast.  The orchestra under Simon Wiegle 
sounded magnificent, a real treat from start to finish.

Robert Carsen's production was a mixed bag.  I did not have a problem with the updating 
per se, and the sets and costumes were wonderful.  But the Impending War theme was 
over-done and at odds with the both the spirit of Hoffmanstahl's text and, more damaging, 
with Strauss' music.  Yes, there is a sense of passing time and of a world about to vanish in 
"Rosenkavalier."  But it is a gentle nostalgia, and making it into impending tragedy distorts 
the essential character of the opera.  The most damaging elements were those huge cannon 
in Act II - fortunately not on stage the whole time - and, worst of all, the menacing 
advancing army at the very end.  What the hell did that have to do with the frothy, sparkly 
music that Strauss provided for the end of the opera?  It was a classic example of a director 
letting his Konzept get in the way of the material.  Another problem was the brothel in Act 
III - again, the basic idea was not bad and provided some really funny moments.  (I loved 
the way that the high jinks were designed to overwhelm Ochs with really aggressive 
sexuality, especially as he clearly had some sexual dysfunction issues.  ("You want sex, 
Ochs? We'll give you sex!")   But Carsen over-did it; at one point we had about 70 whores 
and their johns looking on while the Marschallin, Octavian and Sophie were trying to 
untangle the complicated situation.  And would Faninal really pass by his daughter rolling 
around in bed with Octavian (in a bordello, yet)  and just say, "Well, kids are like that..."?  I 
don't think so. 
 
Still, there were lots of wonderful elements.  I particularly loved the end of Act I, when the 
Marschallin put on her gloves and walked out to begin her day, holding the bouquet 
Octavian had given her.  Life goes on, even with impending heartbreak.  ("Und in dem 
'Wie'...")  Really, so much of this production worked well.  Just lose the cannon, the 
advancing army, and about half of the whores and it will work much better.

The whole production is handsome and with some of the excrescences trimmed should do 
duty for a good while.  The old production was much loved, deservedly so, but it was time 
to retire.  Although in our cramped and censorious PC times, I don't suppose we will ever 
again see Hoffmanstahl's and Strauss' charming little blackamoor.

MDW
  

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