Nice to see one of the classic Rosenkavalier productions in the flesh, and I have to say that this is probably the best "traditional" Rosenkavalier that I have seen. No prizes for guessing which kitsch fest productions I'm referring to in the review (linked to below) when I say that it's better than them. I personally am not the biggest fan of traditional with regards to Strauss - though his music is very evocative of action, tension and drama, I just don't think it is ever truly evocative of the era that he is setting it in. For me, Rosenkavalier, Elektra, Arabella and Capriccio all suffer in some way or another if presented in entirely "traditional" stagings with no degree of abstraction. I'd like to write about this at greater length at some point, so will leave it there for the time being.
The real point of this Rosenkavalier was surely as an outing for Fleming's Marschallin. She was MUCH better here vocally than in her recent London/LSO concert - more comfortable and giving more sound. Acting wise, this was not as moving as the wonderful Baden Baden DVD, where she seems quite on the edge and gives one of the most brilliant performances of her career, but this Munich performance was also not as terribly self conscious and indulgent as the last Met outing. She responds best to very detailed direction I think, but she knows this role so well that she has many ideas of her own that she can bring - as I mention in the review, some of them were just so brilliantly done, that I really felt quite misty eyed at the end of Act I.
This production/performance was the first time that Act II and III didn't drag for me, and actually it was Act I that one felt the lull - Ochs long section between the bed scene and the entry of all the other characters - just too much stillness and posey mooning around from all of them.
I was talking to Zerbinetta about Strauss, and about what my favourite stagings were... I found it hard to give an answer - I very much like the Carsen Capriccio, and the Baden Baden (originally Paris) Rosenkavalier mentioned above, and feel the old trick of updating a piece to the time the composer wrote it is particularly apposite for Strauss as he seems to be so much a man of the zeitgeist intellectually and artistically. I do very often think Strauss operas need rescuing from certain aspects of tradition and they are extremely hard to do well because they are so dense and so complex. This shouldn't be a bad thing though! Zerbinetta said that she thought Strauss was in some ways unstagable - the music is so choreographed, so detailed, so rich, that you couldn't hope to represent it all on stage, and I think that is very interesting and probably true. Textually too, Hofmannsthal's librettos are hopelessly, wonderfully dense and complex, which is both a blessing and curse. This is another reason I prefer some level of abstraction in Strauss - it allows us to hear the music more clearly and actually focus on the glittering orchestral canvas, rather than getting lost in the fuss and trinketry that so often clouds the visual field in traditional Strauss stagings... oops, said I'd talk about this later. Anyway.
I reviewed it for Bachtrack: http://www.bachtrack.com/review-bayerische-staatsoper-rosenkavalier-schenk-fleming
Here's a taste:
Renée Fleming is probably the most sought-after Marschallin of her generation and this is a role that still fits her like a glove, both vocally and temperamentally. She is now 53, and though there is no question that she can still sing every note of this part, the peerless control and breathtaking radiance of the sound that that earned her the nickname "The Beautiful Voice" is sadly now much diminished.
...Acting-wise, this was not the most poised or regal Marschallin that I have seen from Fleming, but there were certain details in the characterisation that rang heartbreakingly true...