A Victorian surgeon rescues a heavily disfigured man who is mistreated while scraping a living as a side-show freak. Behind his monstrous facade, there is revealed a person of intelligence and sensitivity.
John Schlesinger's triumphant production preserved for the nation by the indefatigable Brian Large. There's a reasonable crop of Der Rosenkavalier on video, probably because it's a good and (more importantly) much loved work. This Royal Opera production is given in three straightforwardly period but opulent sets with costuming to match.
Into this carefully prepared space is a dream team (you can't do it with substitutes) headed with Kiri te Kanawa's generous, feminine but poised Marschallin. If Yvonne Howell's is slightly harsh in places it's never out of character - anyway, Barbara Bonney's charming, blushing Sophie is the perfect antidote. Finally, we have a truly remarkable, idiosyncratic interpretation of Ochs from the late Aage Haugland, not just pompous but dangerously self-assured. The singing under Solti is fine.
For all its grand scale the piquant moments are very discreet - Brian Large seems to know just when the screw is to be turned and never misses. If you're dry-eyed at the end of the first act you're churlish; if at the end of the the third you're inhuman. 8/10
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