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Richard STRAUSS (1864–1949)
Der Rosenkavalier  - opera in three acts Op. 59 (1911) Highlights
Act I:
1. Introduction (orchestra) … [3:36]
2. Wie du warst! Wie du bist! [4:08]
3. Di rigori armato il seno … [2:18]
4. Als Morgengabe, ganz separatism jedoch … [2:04]
5. Ma sì caro è’l mio tormento [1:01]
6. Da geht er hin [5:30]
7. Die Zeit, die ist ein sonderbar Ding ... [2:34]
8. Mein schöner Schatz ... [4:23]
9. Ich werd’ jetzr in die Kirchen geh’n ... [3:02]
10. Wie sie befiehlt, Bichette! ... [1:12]
11. Es ist gut, Geht nur wieder [3:13]
Act II:
12. Mir ist die Ehre widerfahren (Presentation of the Silver Rose) ... [7:33]
13. Ich kenn’ Ihn schon recht wohl [4:01]
14. Da lieg’ ich! ... [5:14]
15. Ohne mich, ohne mich ... [1:34]
16. Herr Cavalier! Den morgigen Abend hätt’ i frei [4:50]
Act III:
17. Nein, nein, nein, nein! I trink’kein Wein ... [1:35]
18. Ach, lass’ Sie schon einmal das fade Wort! ... [3:18]
19. Die schöne Musi! [1:44]
20. Marie Theres’ ... Hab’ mir’s gelobt ... [6:05]
21. Ist ein Traum ... Spür’ nur dich ... [3:31]
22. Ist ein Traum ... Spür’ nur dich [2:45]
Kiri Te Kanawa (soprano) – Marschallin; Anne-Sofie von Otter (mezzo) – Octavian; Kurt Rydl (bass) – Baron Ochs; Barbara Hendricks (soprano) – Sophie; Franz Grundheber (baritone) – Herr von Faninal; Claire Powell (mezzo) – Annina; Richard Leech (tenor) – An Italian Singer; Alfred Sramek (bass) – An Attorney; Bernd Beyer (tenor), Rainer Zakowsky (tenor), Werner Cerny (bass), Joachim Schroeter (bass) – Four Footmen;
Dresden State Opera Chorus, Dresden Staatskapelle/Bernard Haitink
rec. Lukaskirche, Dresden, August 1990

Assessing a highlights disc doesn’t necessarily give the same end-result as reviewing the source complete set – at least as far as the conductor’s contribution is concerned. For an opera like Rosenkavalier, with its constant flow of music, its colour and contrapuntal structure, the overall grip across long sections, even full acts, is essential. On a highlights disc one gets only glimpses and sensible tempos for the actual scenes and good support for the singers is essential. By and large it is the singing that counts more than anything else.

For this well filled disc the producers have found a happy middle course and chosen some central scenes that are of importance to the unfolding of the plot as well as giving us the plums. Thus we get the last 14½ minutes of the first act, the Presentation of the Silver Rose (11½ mins), the finale of the act with Ochs and Annina (11½ mins.) and the lovely finale of the opera with the three leading women entwining their beautiful voices for almost 13 mins. Within these scenes there are numerous cue points. Excellent!

For someone who grew up with Georg Solti’s legendary Decca recording almost 40 years ago, Haitink can be a bit on the cool side. Solti with the Vienna Philharmonic and one of the company’s brightest and most dynamic recordings, grabbed you by the throat and held you with an iron grip throughout. I have lost count of how many times I sat – often with headphones late at night – and marvelled at the energy and the flair of that reading. At the same time the more contemplative scenes, of which there are many, still felt relaxed. The genial Haitink in mellower sound is less importunate but with the wonderful Dresden Staatskapelle just as inviting; it was the predecessors of these musicians who presented Strauss’s baby at the font back in 1911. He does not put a foot wrong and there is a lot that feels instinctively right. He has a cast that can challenge Solti’s, or that of any other recorded Rosenkavalier. Yvonne Minton for Solti and Christa Ludwig for Karajan (the two canonized recordings of this opera) are excellent. However Anne-Sofie von Otter is even more the Octavian of one’s dreams, in superb voice, giving a many-faceted portrait of the young Count. When dressed up as ‘Mariandl’ in the third act she doesn’t overdo the parody. Everything feels ‘right’.

Kiri Te Kanawa has been criticized for lack of involvement in some her operatic roles, and it is true that we miss the superb verbal inflexions of Elisabeth Schwarzkopf (Karajan) but in her more straightforward way she is still very appealing and believable and she is as creamy of voice as ever. Regine Crespin (Solti) is somewhere between these two – she was even better in the highlights disc she recorded for Decca in the mid-1960s with Silvio Varviso – but all three are outstanding. The only problem with the Haitink recording is that von Otter and Te Kanawa are so similar in timbre that it is sometimes, without a libretto, hard to know who is singing. As Sophie, Rita Streich on Karl Böhm’s DG recording, is hard to beat, even though the young Helen Donath (Solti) runs her close, but I must say that Barbara Hendricks is lovely too and this is, by some margin, her best opera role on record.

Kurt Rydl in 1990 was a far more sonorous and steady singer than he has been of late and his Ochs is fruity and expressive. In the scene with Annina – well sung by Claire Powell – at the end of act two he is so warm and human that one reluctantly feels sorry for him. Richard Leech is a lyric Italian Tenor in the reception scene in act one, much more in line with Strauss’s intentions, I believe, than Pavarotti’s brilliant reading for Solti. Leech is close to Nicolai Gedda, who was Karajan’s tenor and must be regarded as the touchstone in this role.

There is no text but a good synopsis and at the price this is a splendid buy for anyone who doesn’t want a complete Rosenkavalier – to begin with. Having heard these excerpts I suppose a lot of purchasers will start saving up for a complete recording. The cover picture, by the way, is Alfred Roller’s design for the Marschallin’s bedroom in act one for the Dresden premiere in 1911. This was also the original cover of the Solti recording.

Göran Forsling



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