Der Rosenkavalier Not Up to Expectations

 GermanyGermany Strauss: Der Rosenkavalier, Staatskapelle and Staatsoper Dresden, Christian Thielemann (conductor), Semperoper Dresden, 16.6.2013 (JMI)


Semperoper Dresden
Direction: Uwe Eric Laufenberg
Sets: Christoph Schubiger
Costumes: Jessica Karge

Feldmarschallin: Anne Schwanewilms
Octavian: Elina Garanca
Ochs: Peter Rose
Sophie: Anna Prohaska
Faninal: Martin Gantner
Marianne: Irmgard Vilsmaier
Valzacchi: Thomas Ebenstein
Annina: Helene Schneidermann
A Singer: Bryan Hymel

Rosenkavalier En­sem­ble © Matthias Creutziger

Der Rosenkavalier was to have been the highlight of my trip to Dresden. The result did not fully meet my high expectations, but all in all it was an excellent opera

Christian Thielemann conducted, and the performace proceeded in a normal way during the first two acts. However, it was delayed, with no explanation, at the beginning of Act III, despite the fact that everybody was back in their seats. This second intermission lasted more than 45 minutes, until Mr. Thielemann finally took the podium and the performance continued. At his solo bow he was rather serious and remained before the curtain no more than a few seconds. He did not reappear, even though the singers were applauded again and again.

In strictly musical terms his conducting had its ups and downs, or perhaps one might say its ups and flats. There was nothing really low, but not all his conducting reached the level of excellence achieved at certain unforgettable moments in the performace. Thielemann accompanied the Marschallin’s Monologue and the duet with Octavian that closes Act 1 with outstanding delicacy. I should also mention the end of Act 2 and the second half of the final act, where Thielemann was superb in the beautiful trio and in the inspired duet by Octavian and Sophie. But not all the opera offered that outstanding quality: the Presentation of the Rose was particularly disappointing, and in general he slowed tempos down too much, causing the tension to slacken from time to time. What was truly outstanding was the performance of Staatskapelle Dresden, whose quality is superior to some other prestigious orchestras at well-known opera houses.

In my review of The Flying Dutchman, I mentioned that Dresden does not usually offer big stars in their casts. But there is no rule without an exception, and this Rosenkavalier had an exceptional cast, especially with regard to the three female leads. To have Anne Schwanewilms, Elina Garanca and Anna Prohaska in one theater is a real treat, and they were excellent.

The character of the Marschallin is a gem for a great singer. Today there are some truly exceptional sopranos in this character, and there is no doubt that Anne Schwanewilms is one of the best. She is not a soprano who offers fireworks, but she lives the character with a rare intensity and truly moving melancholy. She sang with exquisite taste, matching her voice to the demands of her interpretation. It was a great performance, full of emotion and elegance.

Elina Garanca once again proved to be an accomplished performer of Octavian with a freshness of voice and outstanding musicality. Octavian’s problem is that she is always in the shadow when there is a great Marschallin on stage, which does not lessen the quality of Garanca’s interpretation.

Peter Rose was once again the Baron Ochs. I have seen this production several times, and in the past it was often Kurt Rydl giving life to the role. Some 5 to 10 years ago he was the true protagonist of the opera. Peter Rose was good, but handicapped in his lower range.

Daniela Fally, who was to sing Sophie, was replaced at the last minute by Anna Prohaska, which proves that Dresden knows how to solve problems at the 11th hour. Ms. Prohaska was fully convincing: her light soprano is not big, but it is quite appealling, and she is an excellent interpeter. For me, she is probably the best Sophie today.

To complete the excellent cast we had Bryan Hymel as the Italian Singer. His aria in Act 1 is tricky: the tessitura is quite difficult and many a tenor has obvious problems in this short piece. That was not the case with Hymel, who was very good.

Martin Gantner made a fine Faninal, both in terms of singing and acting. Irmgard Vilsmaier was excellent – as usual – in the character of Marianne. Thomas Ebenstein (Valzacchi) and Helene Schneidermann (Annina) were a good pair of intriguers.

The production had its premiere 13 years ago and bears the signature of Uwe Eric Laufenberg. I wrote about it three years ago when I saw the production at Barcelona’s Liceu.

The theater was completely sold out. The audience cheered the performers, with Schwanewilms, Garanca and Prohaska the big winners.

José Mª. Irurzun