There is no lack of fine performances of this opera on DVD and CD, so it has to be something really special to move into the first rank of Rosenkavaliers. I compared this one to the Munich production of 1979, conducted by Carlos Kleiber, and the Zurich of 2004, conducted by Franz Welser-Most, and found it lacking in production values and fidelity to the text. The first act is all right: Pieczonka as the Marschallin and Kirchschlager as Octavian are passionate enough as they roll around in bed; they are a match for Jones and Fassbaender in 1979, and Stemme and Kasarova in 2004. Hawlata however is just not effective as Ochs, not nearly vulgar and coarse enough, and his low notes are not rich and vibrant. I really miss Jungwirth in Munich 1979.
Act Two goes along well enough at Faninal's house. Miah Persson is a superb Sophie, both visually and vocally, but Kirchschlager disappoints; she does not know how to play a teenage boy getting angry with a boorish Ochs. Fassbaender and Kasarova both come out way ahead on acting chops, especially the latter--you can practically see the smoke coming out of her ears.
Act Three offers the biggest problems: the brothel setting is completely wrong, a distortion of the libretto that takes the production off the rails. The Marschallin would never show up at Madame Kitty's! (or whatever the place is called). Altogether, a weak entry in the crowded field of Rosenkavalier on video.
Note: I see that I haven't mentioned the sets. The deep red bedroom in Act One serves to diminish the contributions of the two principals. Pieczonka especially has trouble coping with the colour bath; many little details that a singer would supply are lost in the riot of colour. The same is true of Act Three. This fact, as well as the liberties with the text, serve to eliminate this film from my library.
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