My favourite Strauss opera in a very good production
I do love Richard Strauss' music, though at first it did take some time to do so. Der Rosenkavalier is my favourite of his operas especially for the gorgeous music. And while I do put the 1962, 1979, 1985 and 1994 productions above it, this 1998 Rosenkavalier is a very worthy one. The DVD starts with shots of the imposing and very beautiful Teatro Massimo, and they look absolutely splendid in their detail and vivid colour. The costumes are very rich in look(excepting the Marschallin's ugly nightgown), and the airy Roccoco-like sets are just as striking. Their impact is helped by the excellent picture quality and video directing. The sound is also quite good. Other than the Marschallin's night gown, my main qualms with this production was how Baron Ochs was directed. He is a boorish and potentially annoying character, but the light farcial feel of Der Rosenkavalier comes from Baron Ochs, and I do think stage director Pier Luigi Pizzi made him too restrained, and the action in Act 3, which is very clumsily done. Musically though, it is just stunning. The orchestra do the long soaring lines justice with controlled legato, and I loved the lyricism of the conducting, almost as if the conductor was influenced by Karajan. The performances are splendid, even, despite how he was directed, the sonorous Baron Ochs of Daniel Lewis Williams, his bottom is especially good. I did find Fanninal much funnier than Ochs in this production though, and he is splendidly characterised by David Pittman-Jennings, very pompous and almost hilariously so. I found the women even better. The biggest surprise was the Sophie of 21-year old Desiree Rancatore, incredibly beguiling with floating high notes without a single screech, quite an accomplishment for someone at an age where most(perhaps) singers are not as well formed vocally or as incisive in their abilities. Elizabeth Whitehouse is a suitably aristocratic and nuanced Marschallin with very musical phrasing indeed, a nice mix of sweetness and gloomy dramatics. Ildiko Komlosi is very convincing as Octavian and especially in the guise of Mariandel, fresh in interpretation and pleasant in voice. All in all, very good production of a favourite, if Act 3 wasn't so clumsily co-ordinated and Baron Ochs more convincingly directed then I would have recommended it even higher. 8/10 Bethany Cox
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