Just as in her Baden Baden Ariadnes earlier this year, Renée seemed freer vocally on her second outing and was much better in her Act I monologue, with her trademark superb legato and sense of line returning in a much more natural and verbally unexaggerated portrait. In Act III she was back to the very parlando style of the previous night.
At the beginning of Act III, it was announced that Sophie Koch was quite unwell and would continue but couldn't sing anymore. She had given very fine performances of Acts I and II and I couldn't have told that anything was wrong. For the Mariandel scenes she spoke the lines, and then the production's Annina, Heike Grotzinger heroically filled in for the Octavian parts as Koch continued to act it. Given that it was such short notice Grotzinger did very well, but obviously it was sad not to be able to hear Koch's voice in the trio. I hope Koch makes a speedy recovery. It was quite informative to see Octavian's Act III dialogue spoken as it was usually still audible- you realised how lightly orchestrated his music is, and that this really is a lyric part despite it never sounding unimpressive. Strauss is the master. Sometimes Koch would just leave out a line, especially with the Marschallin, just bowing her head, and the emotion was still conveyed. Very interesting.
In the shop afterwards I saw the first copies of a new CD release of the 2009 Fleming/Koch/Damrau/Hawlata/Kaufmann/Thielemann Baden Baden Rosenkavalier that is being released elsewhere at the beginning of September. This'll be the same as the beautiful DVD version, which has fabulous orchestral playing, Fleming in strong form, and Kaufmann as the tenor!
In the end I felt rather unmoved at the end of this evening. Whether it was because I was so far from the stage, or because of the problems in Act III I couldn't tell, but I think at least part of it is I find all the grandiose stage krammerei and crinolines slightly alienating and distracting from the essentially extremely intimate and small scale story. For many people precisely these stage features are a huge draw. Your mileage may vary. For me opera should never be about escapism though - it should be about learning to connect more deeply with yourself, other people and the world around you.
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