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The four lead singers made as strong a cast as you could wish for anywhere. Sarah Connolly made a near ideal Octavian. She brought out his youth, his impulsiveness and most importantly, his egocentricity. This is an Octavian who most definitely has no idea what the Marschallin is talking about at the end of Act 1, viewing everything solely through the mirror of his own needs.
Connolly is a noted Handelian and this came over in the clarity and shape of her vocal lines. It is a rich, quite focussed voice, rather than an opulent, well upholstered one. In fact this is something all three female principals had in common, after all Tynan is a notable Handelian as well. None of the three have opulent, well-upholstered voices; this was a vocal performance notable for clarity and beauty of line.
This meant that the presentation of the rose scene was glorious as the two voices intertwined in two clean lines. Tynan made a very self-possessed Sophie, one who looked and sounded her age. She was very reactive, not a demure doll, a particular virtue when things got complicated emotionally at the end of Act 3.
Janice Watson made a young looking and sounding Marschallin, making her far closer to the libretto's age of 33 than many performances. Watson has a clear, bright voice and worked hard to create a subtle, but lustrous vocal line. She is a good Marschallin, with a nice feel for Strauss' music and Hoffmanstahl's words. There were moments during her Act 1 monologue when she did not quite grip us in the way she ought. But her way with the words was good, almost as good as Valerie Masterson (for me a paradigm in this respect in the role). Towards the end of Act 1, however, things came together in a beautifully and movingly inflected vocal line, thus making me realise that what is now a good Marschallin has the potential to become a great one.
Copyright © 10 June 2008
Robert Hugill, London UK