Opera Scotland

Rosenkavalier The Knight of the Rose; Der Rosenkavalier; The Rose-Bearer

Music
Richard Strauss (born Munich, 11 June 1864; died Garmisch, 8 September 1949)

Text
Hugo von Hofmannsthal.

Source
Original.

Premières
First performance: Dresden (Hofoper), 26 January 1911.
First UK performance: London (Covent Garden), 29 January 1913.
First performance in Scotland. Edinburgh (King's Theatre), 17 November 1913.
Scottish Opera première: Glasgow (King’s Theatre), 20 May 1971.

Background
Strauss’s previous two operas, Salome and Elektra, had been highly experimental, modern, and shocking. They had been successful but also controversial, encountering problems with censorship. His next opera could hardly have been more different. Hofmannsthal creates his own idea of mid 18th century Vienna in this delightful comedy of manners. The idea of presenting a silver rose in a betrothal ceremony is his invention, and he differentiates between different social classes and accents with a sure touch. The opera was an immediate success and has never slipped from its high peak of popularity. Orchestral suites of the waltzes also remain popular in concerts.

Main Characters
Marie-Thérèse, Princess von Werdenberg – the Field Marshal’s wife or ‘Feldmarschallin’ (soprano)
Octavian, Count Rofrano (soprano)
Baron Ochs auf Lerchenau, a distant relation of the Marschallin (bass)
Sophie von Faninal (soprano)
Marianne, her nurse (soprano)
Herr von Faninal, a wealthy merchant, Sophie’s father (baritone)
Valzacchi, an Italian intriguer (tenor)
Annina, his accomplice (mezzo-soprano)

Plot Summary
The Field Marshal is away on a hunting expedition, and his wife, aged 32, has spent the night with her latest lover, Octavian, a youth of 17. Their breakfast is disturbed by the arrival of her cousin from the country, Baron Ochs. Octavian disguises himself in a maid’s costume, but this only attracts Ochs’s attention. The Baron has come to ask the Marschallin’s help. He has negotiated a profitable marriage with a rich merchant’s daughter and needs a suitable person to present the traditional silver rose to his intended. After a crowd of the public disturb the scene in the customary levée, she is left alone to ponder her advancing age.

At Faninal’s house Sophie awaits her Rosenkavalier. When Octavian enters, dressed in silver, to present the rose, it is love at first sight. Sophie is then appalled at her first meeting with Ochs, whose behaviour is ungentlemanly. Octavian wounds him slightly in their duel. Ochs is cheered when Annina (in Octavian’s pay) brings him a letter from Mariandel (Octavian in his maid’s disguise), offering an assignation at the local inn.

Octavian arranges the evening so that maximum embarrassment will be caused to Ochs. As the seduction proceeds in a broadly farcical manner, the inn is reduced to chaos just in time for the arrival of the Marschallin to sort things out. Octavian and Sophie are united.

 

RECORDINGS

DECCA (3 CDs) Sung in German Recorded 1969

Conductor: Georg Solti
Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
Régine Crespin (Marschallin), Yvonne Minton (Octavian), Helen Donath (Sophie).

This is an excellent modern recording, stylishly conducted by Solti with an orchestra with this music in their blood. Most of the cast were relatively youthful, including Manfred Jungwirth as Ochs. Régine Crespin is notably moving as the Marschallin. It is good to hear an excellent performance from the experienced Vienna-based Scottish tenor Murray Dickie as Valzacchi. He is joined as Annina by a young Anne Howells, who soon took up the part of Octavian, and sang it many times with Scottish Opera. The veteran Emmy Loose is great fun as Marianne and the small roles are stuffed with experienced performers from the State Opera. Pavarotti makes his mark as the usual guest imported to sing the Italian tenor’s aria.

DECCA (3 CDs) Sung in German Recorded 1954

Conductor: Erich Kleiber
Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
Maria Reining (Marschallin), Sena Jurinac (Octavian), Hilde Gueden (Sophie).

This performance really is quite glorious, and the only reservation need be about the quality of the recording itself – quite good for its vintage but definitely sounding a bit historic today. Some listeners have taken the view that Reining’s Marschallin was caught a little too late in her career, but her vocal acting covers any shortcomings. Sena Jurinac is pretty much perfect as Octavian, and the other performers, including Ludwig Weber as Ochs and Anton Dermota as the tenor, show what a wonderful company Vienna had in the years after the war. Erich Kleiber’s conducting seems entirely natural.

For anyone who wants Rosenkavalier on DVD two good choices are beautifullyly conducted by his son Carlos Kleiber a decade or so apart in Munich. The earlier cast features Dame Gwyneth Jones as the Marschallin and Brigitte Fassbaender as Octavian. The later version features Dame Felicity Lott with Anne Sophie von Otter.

PONTO (4 CDs) Sung in English Recorded 1971

Conductor: Alexander Gibson
Scottish National Orchestra
Helga Dernesch (Marschallin), Janet Baker (Octavian), Elizabeth Harwood (Sophie).

For some, the existence of a complete recording of this delightful comedy performed in English will be sufficient recommendation. For others, performances by Janet Baker and Elizabeth Harwood in roles they did not sing again must be a great attraction. For others, a souvenir of one of the great moments from Scottish Opera’s early years (tickets were like gold-dust) will be the magnet. Whatever the reason, this live recording from Glasgow King’s Theatre is a memorable event. Baker and Harwood are both glorious, and Dernesch makes a very attractive Marschallin, in spite of one or two dodgy high notes – her English has the slightest Viennese touch to it. The only slight disappointment comes from the performance of Noel Mangin as Ochs, a novice in the part. The other roles are well done, with Thomas Hemsley and Nigel Douglas outstanding as Faninal and Valzacchi. Annina and Marianne are well taken by Joan Davies and Judith Pierce. An additional bonus is the inclusion of an extra disc with the prologue to Ariadne on Naxos, again featuring Baker in an Anthony Besch production for Scottish Opera in a role she did not repeat elsewhere.

The Cast

Animal Seller
 
Annina
 Valzacchi's accomplice
Boots
 
Coachman
 
Commissioner of Police
 
Cook
 
Doctor
 
Faninal
 Herr von Faninal, a rich merchant
Feldmarschallin
 Marie-Therese, Princess of Werdenberg (the Field-Marshal's wife)
Fifth Follower
 
First Follower
 in Baron Ochs' retinue
First Footman
 
First Noble Orphan
 
First Waiter
 
Flute Player
 
Fourth Follower
 
Fourth Footman
 
Fourth Waiter
 
Hairdresser
 
Kitchen Boy
 
Landlord
 
Leopold
 Baron Ochs' bastard son
Major- domo
 to the Marschallin
Major-domo
 to Faninal
Marianne
 Marianne Leitmetzerin, Sophie's duenna
Messenger
 
Milliner
 
Musician
 
Noble Widow
 
Notary
 
Notary's Clerk
 
Ochs
 Baron Ochs auf Lerchenau
Octavian
 Count Rofrano
Page
 to the Marschallin
Scholar
 
Second Follower
 
Second Footman
 
Second Noble Orphan
 
Second Waiter
 
Sophie
 Sophie von Faninal, his daughter
Tenor
 
Third Follower
 
Third Footman
 
Third Noble Orphan
 
Third Waiter
 
Valzacchi
 an intriguer

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