Der Rosenkavalier is my favourite of Strauss' operas, and while I prefer the 1962, 1982 1985 and 1994 performances I enjoyed this 2009 production. It looks great, I didn't think much of the false ceilings but the costumes, especially Marschallin's and the silver-white costuming for Sophie and Octavian for the Presentation of the Rose scene, are sumptuous and the sets are interesting, I personally liked the mirrors. The camera work and picture quality are excellent, and the sound has clarity, though the orchestra just slightly override the singers at times.
Musically, this Rosenkavalier I cannot fault, Christian Thielman I've always liked, though his conducting occasionally can feel a little square. Here like with Karajan and Kleiber there is such a romantic and sympathetic approach to it. The orchestra do perfect justice to Strauss' lush orchestration, the waltz music is wonderfully sugary, like I imagine it to be. Of the staging, the comedy/"pantomimic"/buffa moments were characterful and quite broad and Mit Mir is suitably self-indulgent, but my absolute favourite was the Presentation of the Rose, which is the epitome of love at first sight.
The singing is a sheer delight, the standout being Renee Fleming, who is superb in one of her best roles as the Marschallin. Her voice is creamy, sincere and just soars over the orchestra like it should do, and the whole performance is very nuanced and deeply felt, putting so much meaning to the character's sad and wise words. Sophie Koch is very good as Octavian, the voice is firm and musical and she does very well bringing out the masculine and feminine characteristics of the role. There is even a wonderful Marlene Dietrich send-up. Diana Damrau looks radiant and acts with a lot of charm. She has some lovely moments vocally, but also has a tendency to sound shrill. I have to admit some of her entries in the otherwise sublime final trio were disappointing, and this is coming from someone who likes Damrau.
Franz Halwata mayn't have the most ideal voice for Baron Ochs, he does sing very well overall, it has a quite pleasing tone to it, if occasionally needing to be more characterful and some of the basso notes lack resonance. However, he is young and he is a gifted actor, Ochs is obnoxious and pathetic but he is at the same time funny and lovable. Halwata brings all of these to his acting, and shows great comic timing. Franz Grundheber is great as Faninal, lots of character while never over-doing it. Jonas Kaufmann is a great surprise as the Italian Opera Singer, Kaufmann is one of the better tenors today in my opinion and like I have with roles like Caveradossi, Don Jose and Werther I love his voice, the baritone-like quality has so much warmth and the top notes ring.
Overall, great production, maybe not for all, but the singing and music more than make up for any few misgivings. 9/10 Bethany Cox
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