Get THIS Love Triangle!
By Erica Papillion-Posey
Ah the Opera! I always love going to the opera. Like the latest box office blockbuster, a well interpreted opera can give you that extra ‘pep in your step’ upon departure. The feeling that somehow your life has been elevated and you are better for it. The Metropolitan Opera’s recent presentation of Richard Strauss’s comic opera, Der Rosenkavalier (The Knight of the Rose), conducted by Edo de Waart, can give one that very sensation. Nathaniel Merrill’s production provides a stunning Viennese back drop featuring glorious vocal talents, cheeky sexual content, a romantic musical setting and- oh yeah, opens with two women in the sack!
A dazzling cast is led by Renee Fleming in her signature role as the complex, moody Marschallin- Empress Maria Theresa. This lyric soprano’s vocal skill was only equaled by her dramatic prowess. If you’ve read Ms. Fleming’s autobiography, The Inner Voice, then you are astutely aware that she has struggled, over the years, with stage presentation/ appearance issues. Needless to say, she has conquered them ten-fold. Crying (tears and all) on queue (rarely seen in opera) cemented her dedication and commitment to the character. Brava Ms. Fleming!
As is the tradition, sometimes in opera, women portray male characters as evidenced in other operas like: the Composer in Ariadne auf Naxos, Hansel in Hansel and Gretel, Sesto in Giulio Cesare and arguably one of the most famous Cherubino, in Le Nozze di Figaro. Here, mezzo, Susan Graham, a standing favorite delivered this ‘pant role’ with distinction. Playing Octavian, the young ‘love-sick’ suitor of the Marschallin, a girl, playing a boy, playing a girl, is difficult enough to fathom but Ms. Graham rose to the occasion in both her vocal and aesthetic presentation- like a MAN!
Providing much of the comedic, chauvinistic, ‘I’m a Man’s-Man’ chaos- that would do the likes of Al Bundy (Married with Children) proud- was basso, Kristinn Sigmundson as the boorish, insatiable, entitled aristocrat, Baron Ochs (translated as ox in German) auf Lerchenau. What an instrument he wields. The rotund resonance of the low ‘E’ as in “Mit Mir” and comedic timing nuanced this delightful character throughout.
Completing the ‘love-triangle’ and making a definite impression was German soubrette, Christine Schäfer in the role of Sophie which she has performed since 1993. With a warm ethereal tone, Ms. Schäfer makes the love duet in Act II between Sophie and Octavian conceivable.
The most moving eloquent moment of the entire opera was the trio at the end of Act III. The vocal blend between Fleming, Graham and Schäfer is sublime. Finally Strauss’s musical message of ‘love loss’ culminates at this juncture. The soaring, legato vocal lines coupled with the lush, sensitive movement of the orchestra bring the heartbreaking implication of each character to a climax and resolve.
Yes, the libretto told the story but the music drove the action, character and mood, at every turn, for an easy to read/ follow ‘love-loss’ story. At 4 hours and 45 minutes this Strauss favorite was worth every minute. What a satisfying way to spend an afternoon.
Erica Papillion-Posey is one of the founders and directors of Operagasm.com. You can learn more about Erica under the ‘About Us’ tab at the top of the page. Her reviews are featured on Operagasm.com weekly. Erica welcomes you to comment or email her privately at firstname.lastname@example.org