Robert Carsen’s Grand Der Rosenkavalier Reaches Buenos Aires

03/08/2017

Strauss, Der Rosenkavalier: Soloists, Chorus and Orchestra / Alejo Pérez (conductor), Teatro Colón, Buenos Aires. 25.7.2017. (JSJ)

El caballero de la rosa 2017 - Foto 1 (c) Máximo Parpagnoli

Jennifer Holloway (Octavian) & Manuela Uhl (Marschallin) in Der Rosenkavalier
(c) Máximo Parpagnoli

Cast:

The Marschallin – Manuela Uhl
Barón Ochs – Kurt Rydl
Octavian – Jennifer Holloway
Sophie – Oriana Favaro
Faninal – John Hancock
Italian Singer – Darío Schmunck

Production:

Direction – Robert Carsen
Sets – Paul Steinberg
Costumes – Brigitte Reiffenstuel
Lighting – Robert Carsen y Peter van Praet
Chorus – Miguel Martínez
Children’s Chorus – César Bustamante
Choreography – Philippe Giraudeau

Given that number of years it took for Der Rosenkavalier to be performed in many major opera houses, it is clear that with its more than 70 performances since the first in 1915 it has been something of a favourite at the Teatro Colón.

And it obviously continues to be if the latest production – a co-production with Covent Garden (performed in December 2016), the Met (May 2017) and the Teatro Regio in Turin – is anything to go by, with a long queue of people waiting to purchase tickets at the final production.

Of course, Der Rosenkavalier also is Strauss’s most popular opera, and undoubtedly the most ‘accessible’, with its wonderful melodies – which come to their climax in the trio in the last act – and the easy to follow comic storyline, somewhat reminiscent of Le nozze di Figaro.

The story is set in the 1740s in the reign of Empress Maria Theresa but this production by Robert Carsen – here re-presented by Bruno Ravella – grand though it is, sets it closer to the time it was written in 1911, close to the outbreak of the First World War.

Indeed visually at least there is somewhat of a contrast between the acts – the first in the Marschallin’s rooms was lush and could be period while the second in Faninal’s house was stark and undoubtedly closer to 1911, but the third in a busy bordello (instead of an inn) was ultimately a nonsense, even for Ochs as the boorish country cousin up for a pre-marital tryst.

Ultimately what distinguishes the Buenos Aires production from the Met and Covent Garden was in the casting with no one in common.

This was the first of two casts and American mezzo Jennifer Holloway as Octavian was very much the star of the evening. Although appearing somewhat older than Octavian’s supposed 17 years, she gave a passionate and musically firm performance, even if – particularly as Mariendal – coming across at times as somewhat over the top.

Manuela Uhl has appeared previously to acclaim in Die Frau ohne Schatten and Elektra and as the Marschallin she largely lived up to expectations but without the same level of consistency. Oriana Favaro was well cast as the young Sophie with the looks and a fresh voice to match.

On the male front Kurt Rydl was the obvious standout with his years of experience showing, in full command of the role with his acting more than compensating for the occasional overshadowing from the orchestra.

John Hancock was likewise frequently lost against the orchestra but was otherwise a jovial Faninal. And Darío Schmunck was a satisfactory Italian singer.

On the podium Alejo Pérez demonstrated his command of the music and the orchestra with well chosen tempi and contrasts as they arose.

Jonathan Spencer Jones

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