Der Rosenkavalier, Royal Opera Home, London

Renée Fleming in ‘Der Rosenkavalier’ at the Royal Opera Residence, London © Alastair Muir

An aura of nostalgia hangs over Der Rosenkavalier. No other opera is so preoccupied with time passing, as it looks back to a as soon as golden era, musing over the finish of a connection and how life slips from one’s grasp. Whatever could have made Richard Strauss and his librettist Hofmannsthal so obsessed?

Robert Carsen, director of the Royal Opera’s new production, proffers a clear answer. Der Rosenkavalier was written in 1910 and he updates the action to that turning point of history, as a world order faced oblivion. His final image of a generation of young men going to their doom certainly requires away the saccharine at the final curtain.

It is, though, a glamorously handsome production — appropriately so, when it might also mark a notable farewell on stage. Renée Fleming has mentioned that this might be her final look at the Royal Opera. If it is, then she goes out, if not really on a high (her soprano no longer carries as effectively as it did), then nevertheless sounding and searching stunning.

The complete of the initial act is a delight. In her grand palace, with its interconnecting doors receding into the distance, Fleming plays a Marschallin nevertheless in thrall to her teenage lover. The interplay between her and Alice Coote’s Octavian, sounding a touch hard-edged of voice, is like watching two fine actors in a sentimental comedy. Fleming, particularly, finds feeling in every line.

A chill, though, falls more than the second act. Carsen is producing a valid point that the nouveau-riche Faninal has produced his money as an arms dealer, but do we actually want to see the presentation of the rose, 1 of opera’s romantic higher points, set against a backdrop of artillery? Or the heavy-handed symbolism of a battalion of young folks, doubles of Sophie and Octavian, waltzing about on the eve of war?

The enormous cast boasts strength in depth. Sophie Bevan sings confidently, but with out fairly the silvery fragility needed for Sophie. Matthew Rose’s Baron Ochs is significantly less lovable than this old rogue can be, but he scores highly for playing the part straight and singing it so effectively. Jochen Schmeckenbecher tends to make Faninal a self-confident wheeler-dealer. Alasdair Elliott raises a smile as a cross-dressing Innkeeper in the finale, played out in a crowded bordello, as in Carsen’s earlier Rosenkavalier at the Salzburg Festival. What ever doubts 1 may possibly have, this new production is a virtuoso piece of stage direction.

There is a lot of time to admire all its detail as the conductor, Andris Nelsons, lavishes enjoy and languorous speeds on Strauss’s luscious score. Several moons ago, Carlos Kleiber dazzled with no the need for such indulgence. But is this the moment for seeking back? Far better to catch Fleming as the Marschallin a single much more time and Carsen’s bravura production whilst it is nonetheless fresh.

To January 24, roh.org.uk

Section: Arts


Oedipe, Royal Opera, London — ‘Mounting intensity’

Johan Reuter in 'Oedipe'. Photo: Clive Barda©Clive Barda

Johan Reuter in ‘Oedipe’. Photo: Clive Barda

The Oedipus legend casts a extended shadow more than theatre and film from Dryden and Voltaire to Cocteau and Pasolini. Opera has been a lot more reluctant to engage with it. Only Stravinsky’s Oedipus Rex, an “opera-oratorio”, comes round with regularity, a lot more in the concert hall than the opera house. Julian Anderson’s recent Thebans also tried its hand at English National Opera.

That leaves George Enescu’s Oedipe, premiered in 1936, as the primary operatic setting of the myth. Though his opera is acquiring performances much more usually than it utilised to, this new production is the very first time it has been staged at London’s Royal Opera Property. It leaves a dour, slow-moving, but ultimately strong impression.

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Enescu’s setting is ambitious in relating Oedipus’s life story from cradle to grave. Interestingly, Anderson’s Thebans took a comparable selection, telescoping an entire trilogy into 1 evening, but, unlike that, Oedipe in no way feels rushed. Far from it — the initial two acts are a extended slog, worse than Wagnerian in their refusal to hurry in engaging the audience either musically or dramatically. But don’t leave at the interval: the second half, as Oedipus discovers the double horror of his fate, rouses tragedy of mounting intensity.

Thankfully, the Royal Opera production by Àlex Ollé and Valentina Carrasco, shared with Brussels and Paris, is visually impressive from the begin. The curtain goes up to reveal a wall of ancient Greek figures, like a giant frieze, right after which the action moves to Enescu’s own time. Some modern clichés apart (the road-menders, the initial globe war aircraft), it aspires to a timeless grandeur.

A fine cast, headed by the tireless Johan Reuter as Oedipe, is offered small to perform with musically. Enescu rarely provides the singers a lot more than lyrical scraps, but Sarah Connolly’s Jocaste, John Tomlinson’s Tirésias, Marie-Nicole Lemieux’s Sphinx and Sophie Bevan’s Antigone all make their mark. The Royal Opera orchestra, carried out by Leo Hussain, plays scrupulously even when Enescu’s score is wandering about aimlessly and tends to make the most of its French-tinted higher points, as impressionist mists cloud Oedipe’s thoughts and blazing brass reinforces the final flood of light. Not a neglected masterpiece, but a critical piece of work. See it now or not at all.


To June 8,
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Section: Arts


Tannhäuser, Royal Opera Residence, London — ‘Gerhaher towers above every person else’

It doesn’t all have to boil down to sex. In fact, you could read Wagner’s Tannhäuser as a metaphor for any type of internal struggle, in which instinct and intention are diametrically opposed. Still, the tension specifically among sensual gratification and spiritual nourishment was an obsession for Wagner, and gives the motor of this 1845 opera. One ought, at least, to acknowledge it.

Instead, director Tim Albery has made a mêlée of suggestions that allows the tension to dissipate. More’s the pity due to the fact his revived production, new at Covent Garden in 2010, starts promisingly, with an inspired take on the Venusberg scene. Jasmin Vardimon’s imaginative choreography capitalises on the music’s erotic charge and final results in a ballet full of orgiastic fervour. Meanwhile a replica of the Covent Garden proscenium, symbolising Tannhäuser’s artistry, hovers more than this vision: the worlds of the artist and the sexually licentious are cleverly entwined.

But what of that other globe, inhabited by Tannhäuser’s actual enjoy? Wartburg is a pile of rubble, an eastern European war zone, where Elisabeth dons a refugee’s coat and scarf, and the Landgrave’s followers brandish AK-47s. On one particular level the austerity functions, as a contrast to the excesses of Venus’s lair. But, in this context, how are we to buy into the quaint formality of the song contest? Or to believe in the crowd’s shock at Tannhäuser’s debauchery? Albery and his designers Michael Levine and Jon Morrell have generated nonsense.

In the pit Hartmut Haenchen does a lot to atone, permitting the score to blossom progressively but completely, although chorus director Renato Balsadonna gets robust results from the Royal Opera Chorus. Not all the musical performances are so consistent: Peter Seiffert is a frustratingly wooden Tannhäuser, with a voice that, in this ruthlessly demanding role, sounds like frayed leather. Emma Bell brings considerably a lot more subtlety to Elisabeth, even if she is eclipsed by Sophie Koch’s smouldering Venus.

But one particular singer towers above every person else: Christian Gerhaher, whose Wolfram — tender and honey-toned — transforms the Royal Opera Residence into an intimate salon. He filled it with a whisper.

To Could 15, roh.org.uk

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Section: Arts