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Brilliant Classics

Richard STRAUSS (1865-1949)
Der Rosenkavalier

Elizabeth Whitehouse (soprano) Marschallin; Idliko Komlosi - Octavian; Desirée Rancatore - Sophie; Daniel Lewis Williams - Baron Ochs; David Pittman-Jennings - Faninal; Pietro Ballo (tenor) Singer;
Massimo Theatre Orchestra/John Neschling.
Rec. Massimo Theatre.


Sparse information on this one, only six characters listed … documentation on these Brilliant Classics DVDs is distinctly under-par. That said, there is much to enjoy when you actually watch and listen to the opera, even though this would, I am sure, never be anyone’s first choice. Lack of subtitles will prove a massive hindrance for non-German speakers in this of all operas where the libretto is so on-the-ball. The brief synopsis provided hardly cuts it.

The shots of audience in the coming into the foyer and milling around is presumably to get one in the mood (as is the sound of the orchestra warming up). Eminently dispensable …

When we do get to the opera proper, the famous opening gives cause for concern. There is immediately a sense of struggle in the strings (nice horn whoops though).

The staging throughout is fairly simple and in common with other items in this series, unlikely to ruffle too many feathers (a rotating set enables quick changes of scene). Whites and creams give an aura of decadence to the (smallish) stage. Nice, too, that the voices of the Marschallin and Octavian are timbrally differentiated (Whitehouse’s Marschallin is somewhat edgier than Komlosi’s Octavian). In fact it is Octavian who impresses more in this first scene (‘Wie du warst’ is lovely, as is ‘Ich bin dein Bub’). In the end, they visually work together too, cavorting most improperly! The pacing here is convincingly done by Neschling; there’s almost a Mozartian - Figaro-isch - feel to the dramatic impetus. Both Marschallin and Octavian act well; Octavian having a slight edge here. It has to be said that it is the Octavian who really goes for it towards the end of Act 1.

Enter Baron Ochs of Lerchenau sung by Daniel Lewis Williams. Williams looks young for the part possibly, but he carries himself extremely well and sings excellently. It is a pity that the strings make a hash of their rapid accompaniments around this point. He has a big voice, with a great top voice that shows little or no sense of strain and his exchanges with the Marschallin later on in Act 1 are a highlight of the act.

The Italian tenor is fun, singing from atop a white dais - he certainly sounds like a parody. But possibly most impressive of all is the Sophie of Desirée Rancatore, superbly secure in pitch. Sophie and Octavian together in Act 2 are a joy.

Act three brings excellent performances from the principals. Rancatore and Whitehouse are especially impressive, while Williams projects Octavian’s character well. The final scenes are well done allowing for the fact that Komlosi gets just a little carried away. The beginning of the famous Trio is lusciously sung, but there is an over-riding delicacy thanks to Neschling in the pit. Camera-work is on the gimmicky side here, though, with Octavian and the Marschallin juxtaposed even though they are spatially displaced on-stage.

Acting is fairly impressive throughout although the Act 2 duel is cruelly and obviously stage - a thing of comedy. If I’d have gone to the opera-house for the evening, I would consider this an overall success and not felt short-changed. At home, it is slightly different.

Colin Clarke

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