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