Strauss: Der Rosenkavalier

COMPOSERS: Strauss
LABELS: TDK
ALBUM TITLE: Stauss
WORKS: Der Rosenkavalier
PERFORMER: Adrianne Pieczonka, Angelika Kirchschlager, Franz Hawlata, Franz Grundheber, Miah Persson; Vienna State Opera Chorus, Vienna Philharmonic/Semyon Bychkov, dir. Robert Carsen
CATALOGUE NO: DVWW-OPRC (NTSC system; dts 5.1; 16:9 anamorphic)
When Vienna State Opera forces travelled west for a Salzburg Festival Rosenkavalier in 2004, they might have anticipated a holiday from the tired old Otto Schenk production, endlessly revived in the Austrian capital since 1968. Robert Carsen’s brave new world, on the other hand, courted controversy, but it simply doesn’t fit. Gone are the rococo period and much of the detail of Hofmannsthal’s elaborate libretto, so painstakingly illustrated in Strauss’s score. Instead the lights are going out around Europe and broad brushstrokes evoke the very last days of the Hapsburg Empire. Love and transience give way to sex and war: the Marschallin is a highclass hooker in a bedroom trapped between endless antechambers, her status clarified by the seedier brothel of Act 3, while Faninal’s mansion becomes the Gibichung hall of Wagner’s Gotterdammerung, cluttered with threatening officers and menservants leering over bride-to-be Sophie’s discomfiture at the hand of Baron Ochs. The army boys meet their maker in what has to be one of the worst final curtains ever.

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The casting is up to Salzburg high standards. Franz Hawlata’s monocled, bemedalled and stylishly sung Baron wrests some humour from his dour surroundings, while Adrienne Pieczonka’s Marschallin gains stature in her Act 1 monologue. Her Octavian is Angelika Kirchschlager, a tough youth who plays the tart with ease and who is convincingly beguiled by Miah Persson’s pretty Sophie. Unfortunately the Vienna Philharmonic playing under Bychkov is coarse to match the show and the camerawork, too, is all over the shop. Furthermore, there are no interview extras to clarify Carsen’s concept, which doesn’t begin to provide a plausible alternative to the focused tradition of John Schlesinger’s Covent Garden extravaganza (Warner). David Nice