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Another benefit of having the singers above the orchestra is that the voices are more easily heard by the audience, as the sound floats over and out into the house. For this production, they draped the organ pipes at the back of the stage with shimmery white fabric, to match the floor covering of the platform. In fact, the entire production was in black and white with the only color being in the lighting on, around and above the stage, as well as the soffits around the ceiling of the auditorium. It was very attractive overall.

Stage director Sven-Eric Bechtolf, with whom Mr Welser-Möst has worked in Zurich and Vienna, set this production in something other than the 1740s envisioned by the composer. (Of course, that was an anachronism too, as there were no waltzes as we know them in that era -- they didn't appear until early in the next century.) There were no powdered wigs or panniers for the women or satin knee-pants for the men. It was sung in the original German, with English supertitles, which mostly worked very well. But the music ... the music just simply doesn't care when the story is set, or about anything else, either. It just is its own glorious, sensual, lush, voluptuous self, ravishingly beautiful and unforgettable.

The singing was uniformly wonderful, which means the casting was simply superb, both visually and vocally. One tends to think first of the Marschallin when thinking of this opera, but, realistically, it is called 'The Knight of the Rose' or Rosenkavalier, after all. Why is it so surprising then, when the Rosenkavalier steals the show right out from under the noses of everyone else? Beats me. But truly, mezzo-soprano Katarina Karnéus as Octavian, did just that. She was marvelous whether as the overheated young man, or the ditzy, slightly tipsy-appearing Mariandel. She was wonderfully gawky as either, perfect behavior for a seventeen-year-old youngster. Her voice is sturdy and ideally suited for the wide vocal range required for this dual role.

From left to right: Katarina Karneus (Octavian), Alfred Muff (Baron Ochs) and Dorothea Röschmann (The Marschallin) in Act 1 of 'Der Rosenkavalier' by Richard Strauss. Photo © 2007 Roger Mastroianni
From left to right: Katarina Karneus (Octavian), Alfred Muff (Baron Ochs) and Dorothea Röschmann (The Marschallin) in Act 1 of 'Der Rosenkavalier' by Richard Strauss. Photo © 2007 Roger Mastroianni

Dorothea Röschmann was wonderful as The Marschallin, a slightly older woman coming face to face with the reality of aging. Her voice had all the requisite qualities needed for this role, silky yet strong, lilting and lovely. (Her swoon in the third act seemed a bit much, but under the circumstances ...)

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Copyright © 16 June 2007 Kelly Ferjutz, Cleveland USA

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