Renée Fleming, El ̄ına Garanča, Günther Groissböck, Erin Morley, Markus Brück, Matthew Polenzani; Metropolitan Opera Chorus & Orchestra/Sebastian Weigle; dir. Robert Carsen (New York, 2016)
Decca DVD: 074 3944 (2 discs); Blu-ray: 074 3944
Nothing succeeds at the Met like excess. Eight footmen join Mohammed to shepherd in the arrivals for the Marschallin’s levee, including four very large dogs; a pair of huge field guns have been ordered for Faninal’s Secessionist- style hall, should we be in any doubt that he’s earned his title supplying the state with arms; and Act III takes place in the vast salon of a lavishly tasteless crimson and gold brothel graced by a huge bed to remind us where the opera began, in the Marschallin’s bedroom.
Yet Robert Carsen’s Rosenkavalier, updated to 1911, the year in which it was first performed, is anything but erotic. The whooping horns and the detumescent strings of the Prelude are muted, almost sedate. In an interview, Carsen reminds us that this Vienna is waltzing on the edge of a volcano. Within three years the First World War will sweep away the Hapsburgs and their Empire. The key to the work then is the Marschallin’s monologue in Act I in which she mourns the passing of time. At the very end we see the Field Marshal and his troops advancing on the audience.
This is also Renée Fleming’s last performance as the Marschallin; there’s no denying the care with which she sings the role, even if she never quite manages to act from within. However, El̄ına Garanča, who also hung up her britches after this production, is a mercurial Octavian, a fully realised character and in fine voice. Erin Morley’s Sophie stamps her foot a little more than is necessary, but the acting and singing honours really belong to Günter Groissböck’s Ochs. Younger than usual, he’s less a boor than a life force bursting through the gentility of Old Vienna.