'Der Rosenkavalier' by Richard Strauss,
reviewed by KELLY FERJUTZ
Well, no wonder Vienna wanted our Franz! [It was announced last week that Franz Welser-Möst will become music director of the Vienna State Opera at the start of the 2010-2011 season, even as he continues his duties in Cleveland.] Anyone would want him after being wrapped in the wonder that was Der Rosenkavalier presented at Severance Hall on Thursday 7 June 2007. It was pure magic, musically and visually. Severance Hall is of course, not an opera house, although it has seen a good many staged and concert versions during its 75 years. Furthermore, this 'Comedy with Music in Three Acts' as it was called by the creative team, librettist Hugo von Hofmannsthal and composer Richard Strauss, was first heard in 1911 -- seven years before the Cleveland Orchestra came into existence.
It was the former Music Director (now Laureate) Christoph von Dohnányi who first conceived the idea of a scaffold-like framework on stage above the orchestra. This enabled the singers to move about a bit, and even leave the stage if they weren't needed for a particular scene. It's worked wonderfully well, in various incarnations during the last fifteen or so years for a wide variety of operas. The semi-staged and sometimes costumed presentations are infinitely more satisfying than the more usual concert versions.
Anytime you have the Cleveland Orchestra as an opera orchestra you're in for a very special treat, especially in music of either of the two Richards: Strauss or Wagner. We've had three of the Ring operas so far, and are patiently waiting for the return of Mr Dohnányi for Götterdämmerung. But in the meantime, we have his successor, Franz Welser-Möst, doing what he loves and some would say (arguably) does best -- conducting operas. This Der Rosenkavalier is the most fully-realized of the ones he's given us in the past five years.
From left to right: Katarina Karneus (Octavian), Dorothea Röschmann (The Marschallin), Alfred Muff (Baron Ochs) and Malin Hartelius (Sophie) with (below) Franz Welser-Möst and members of The Cleveland Orchestra in Act 3 of 'Der Rosenkavalier' by Richard Strauss. Photo © 2007 Roger Mastroianni
Rather than the scaffolding arrangement overhead, there is a large platform serving as a small stage to the rear of the orchestra. Severance Hall's stage was constructed with a small pit area immediately to the front of it, with an elevator that raises or lowers the front portion of the stage. (This is frequently used to bring pianos up from their ground floor storage area to the stage.) Last year for Falstaff, a new plan was put into effect, with the elevator portion about two feet up from the floor. Most of the first violin and viola sections are placed here, with risers of varying heights behind then, bringing the orchestra up a bit so they can see the conductor. The musicians are all below the level of the stage/platform, however.
Copyright © 16 June 2007
Kelly Ferjutz, Cleveland USA