Munich Festival’s Wholly Elegant Rosenkavalier

R. Strauss, Der Rosenkavalier: Soloists, Bavarian State Orchestra and Chorus, Constantin Trinks (conductor). National Theater Munich. 23. 7.2011. (JMI)

Production: Bavarian State Opera

Direction: Otto Schenk
Sets and Costumes: Jürgen Rose


Octavian: Sophie Koch
Marschallin: Anja Harteros
Baron Ochs: Peter Rose
Sophie: Lucy Crowe
Faninal: Martin Gantner
Italian Singer: Piotr Beczala
Valzacchi: Ulrich Ress
Annina: Heike Grötzinger
Marianne: Ingrid Kaiserfeld

This performance of Der Rosenkavalier belongs to the category of those that justify the existence of great opera festivals. And in this decent level performance, the presence of Anja Harteros as the Feldmarschallin was enough to make us leave the theater convinced of having seen something truly exceptional.

This stage production bears the signature of Otto Schenk, whose work is always a guarantee of stage beauty, not to mention good taste. The production was premiered at this theater in 1972, ie 39 years ago and it is good to remind ourselves that none of the female protagonists in this performance, nor its music director, were even born when this production was premiered. The sets and costumes are by Jürgen Rose and both are spectacular and beautiful, as you would expect from this artist. A beautiful room for the first act, and a spectacular Faninal mansion in the second – which raised spontaneous applause from the audience – while the third act was not at the same level. The stage direction by Otto Schenk is not modern, but is always at the service of text and score. Many may consider the production outdated, but I do not share that idea. Real beauty is never outdated and I sincerely hope that when this production is retired for good, it can be preserved an be still be seen in a museum of opera somewhere.

The musical direction was entrusted to Constantin Trinks, who is having a rising career. His direction was generally good, although I found the results a little uneven with some of the nuances, that are essential in this opera beinng missed. The first act, until the entrance of the numerous sellers and servants, seemed to me to be too noisy, as did some passages in the other two acts. However, these were compensated for by other moments of outstanding musical quality, especially the whole orchestral accompaniment in the second half of the first act, which was done with exceptional delicacy. In short, I thought that Constantin Trinks generally promising direction has to mature a little more. Even so, this was an excellent performance by the orchestra.

As I mentioned already Anja Harteros was an exceptional Marschallin, so good in fact that I cannot think of anyone better in this character. She only made her debut in the role last month and it’s incredible how well she has grasped it. When she is on stage she is the sole focus of attention, even when she is silent but when she sings, you simply rediscover the beauty that the human voice can produce as well as her exceptional ability to convey emotions. This is a great singer who is in her prime and in full interpretative maturity. All kudos then to Anja Harteros.

Sophie Koch was Octavian once again confirming her position as a fully convincing interpreter. Surely, this is the opera character with which she feels most comfortable. Always a remarkable performer she offered up every aspects of her beautiful voice the sublime third act trio.

Baron Ochs was veteran Peter Rose, another consummate performer, who completely wins over his audience with his performing skills, but vocally cannot quite erase memories of some other colleagues in the role. He was very good however, although slightly too short on the lowest notes.

To round off the principals, the British soprano Lucy Crowe was a eminently well chosen Sophie, with a beautiful voice which was just continually radiant at the top and superbly suited to her fine characterisation.

But they was also an addition bonbon to this performance because hiddean among the secondary characters we had Piotr Beczala as the Italian singer, an immense luxury that can only be possible in a very few opera houses anywhere the world. His performance was excellent and at all of the points where most other tenors find themselves in some sort of trouble, Beczala gave true demonstrations of vocal beauty, poise and good taste.

Unsurprisingly the National Theatre was again sold out and the audience gave a triumphant reception to the artists, especially to Anja Harteros. The final ovations lasted for almost 10 minutes.

José M. Irurzun