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English National Opera's 'Der Rosenkavalier'


Der Rosenkavalier is an opera about which it is tricky to say much in the way that is new when staging it. In the previous production at the London Coliseum, Jonathan Miller took his familiar course of updating the work to around the time of its composition. Though this was an interesting slant, the updating created more problems than it solved, I think.

Now English National Opera has replaced Miller's production with David McVicar's Scottish Opera one (seen Saturday 7 June 2008). In Scotland McVicar's most recent Octavian was Sarah Connolly and she repeated the role in London, with Sarah Tynan as Sophie, Janice Watson as the Marschallin and John Tomlinson as Baron Ochs.

McVicar's production is traditional, but staged with great clarity and with McVicar's nice eye for theatrical detail. The set, which McVicar co-designed with Michael Vale, is made up of elements from 18th century interiors, rendered into a single distressed whole and made theatrical by the addition of huge gilt curtains and candles along the footlights, plus Tanya McCallin's gorgeous costumes.

The use of the same basic set for all three acts meant that neither the Feldmarschall's palace nor that of Faninal were quite as spick and span as their status would have led you to believe. (This is an element which Miller brought into his production, where the Marschallin's bedroom was very grand but rather decayed.) This new production is not one that makes you gasp at its opulence (as I remember doing when the Covent Garden production was new), but McVicar makes clear and intelligent use of his resources to create a magical, theatrical atmosphere.

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Copyright © 10 June 2008 Robert Hugill, London UK


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