Cher Public

Today or tomorrow or the day after that

“Time is a strange thing,” the lady observes, to a young man who cannot begin to understand what she is talking about. “While one is living one’s life away, it is absolutely nothing. Then, suddenly, one is aware of nothing else. It is all around us—and in us too.” 

When the Metropolitan Opera presents its new Robert Carsen production of Strauss and Hofmannsthal’s Der Rosenkavalier on Thursday, and eight more times over the following month, conditions will be right for the audience to enter into a meditation on time’s passage. Both singers in the scene quoted above will be at a crossroads. Elina Garanca, moving into new repertoire, has announced these will be her final performances of Octavian, the 17-year-old rose-bearer of the title. It is not a portrayal the Latvian star has brought to the Met before now.

Octavian’s mature lover, the Marschallin, will be Renée Fleming, 58 and a Met headliner for most of her 26 years with the company. Although there have been conflicting reports on Fleming’s future plans, these are likely to be, at the very least, her final Marschallins. She starred 18 times in the Met’s prior production, which from 1969 to 2013 showcased generations of Marschallins, Octavians, Sophies and Barons. Some of those singers are gone now, forever to be missed.

Many in attendance will have grown up or grown old with that retired production, and now will be seeing a very different Rosenkavalier. A younger group will have grown up hearing Fleming. Perhaps she will have been “their” soprano, the one whose voice drew them into the special beauties of this strange art form we follow. There is no stopping the clocks. “Yet one must not be afraid of it…”

“To say that Der Rosenkavalier won immediate favor in this city would be far from the truth,” wrote the American‘s Max Smith, covering the Met premiere in December 1913. There was then, as now, resistance to the new. The critic noted “unmistakable signs of apathy” from the audience. “Many persons felt bored after the first half hour of the performance and expressed themselves in terms emphatic.” Although Smith admired Freida Hempel‘s Marschallin, he did not feel the Met had managed a great first performance of a work he knew from overseas productions led by Karl Muck and by Strauss himself.

That shaky launch did no lasting damage. Rosenkavalier‘s 384 Met performances to date are good for 22nd on the all-time repertory list, below Wagner’s Meistersinger and above Verdi’s Otello. A gap of just under six years from January 1917 until November 1922, during and following the United States’ involvement in the Great War, is the longest the Met has ever gone between Rosenkavaliers. The company’s second-most-performed Strauss opera, Salome, has not received half as many performances.

But is any “beloved” opera regarded with such ambivalence? Most operagoers, even those who resist the lurid heavy oils of Salome, Elektra and Frau ohne Schatten, claim to love Rosenkavalier. Fewer claim to love all of it. Although it is rarely given live without a number of traditional cuts, it is still too long for many. Farcical scenes involving the appropriately named Baron Ochs have come in for more criticism that has the Marschallin’s wistful philosophizing, or the budding romance of Octavian and Sophie.

I am not untouched by that ambivalence, and this piece’s existence owes something to editorial powers of persuasion. When we published the parterre box video overview of Rusalka in February to coincide with another new Met production, following similar undertakings in 2016 for Elektra and Tristan und Isolde, I told La Cieca I was not sure I wanted to repeat the endeavor for Rosenkavalier. I know of at least 13 filmed Rosenkavaliers. That would be a lot of poignant reflection and raucous comedy for anyone to take in (or “on”) over a few weeks. La Cieca suggested I write about five DVD/Blu-ray performances—five favorites or five I considered significant.

I considered the proposal while completing some other things for the site, and a sad coincidence ultimately nudged me off the fence: bass Kurt Moll, a favorite singer of mine and a leading Ochs from the 1970s through the 1990s, died on my birthday of this year. Feeling “conscious of the frailty of everything earthly,” I settled on eight performances, two with Herr Moll’s Ochs. Some of these Rosenkavaliers I knew well; others were new to me. We will have one performance of each decade from the 1960s through the 1990s, and two from each decade of the present century.

What I discovered will not sound like much of an insight: Rosenkavalier can be tiresome when the performance is not very good, but does not seem a moment too long when it is very good. A heavily cut bad performance seems endless; a good one with more of the score can fly by. The opera asks a lot from directors, conductors and singers. If they are up to it, it gives a lot back, to them and to the audience.

It provides wonderful opportunities for singing actors of several voice types. There are times in it when Strauss’s music, Hofmannsthal’s gorgeous language, and the situations come together for effects that cannot be achieved in any other art form. If great music theater does not spring from these passages, something is very wrong. The Marschallin’s “Bis in mein Herz hinein” in the first act is one of these; her “Die Zeit, die ist ein sonderbar Ding” a few minutes later is another. As “Mariandel” sings in the final act, “Makes me want a’croi.”

A note on cuts: Reviews of Rosenkavalier often mention “the standard cuts” or “the usual cuts.” Met premiere conductor Alfred Hertz reluctantly took 40 cuts, and resisted managerial pressure to take even more. In modern times, I am aware of 16 discrete traditional cuts across all three acts, some more noticeable than others. A conductor may take all 16, or half of them, or none. Most of the Rosenkavaliers discussed in this survey are abridged to some degree. The exception, the 2014 Salzburg, will come at the end.

Rosenkavalier was nearly 50 when Paul Czinner‘s 35 mm film documented the 1960 Rudolf Hartmann/Teo Otto production that opened Salzburg’s Grosses Festspielhaus. Hartmann’s work aspires to clarity and logic, and Otto’s settings for all three acts, with shiny floors and red, gold and cream interiors, look like color versions of photos of the earliest Rosenkavalier productions. Czinner, Hartmann and conductor Herbert von Karajan all were older than the opera, as was the Faninal, Erich Kunz. The other principal singers had been born within 15 years of the premiere.

Much of the interest lies in seeing Rosenkavalier played by people who, literally and in career terms, grew up with it. We see the tried-and-true business from performers who played parts in trying it and making it true. The singers are good operatic actors, not cinema actors, and they synchronize imperfectly with their recording with Karajan and the Vienna Philharmonic. There are brief audio dropouts in the first act, but the soundtrack has more life and theatricality than Karajan’s highly refined EMI set with the Philharmonia Orchestra and the same Marschallin and Ochs, from a few years earlier.

There is one performance here that will not be bettered by any that comes later: Sena Jurinac‘s soprano Octavian. The line “Ich weiss nicht, wie alle Männer sind” seems the key to the whole character. Jurinac makes something very touching of a young man for whom everything is still new. He cannot bear to imagine there is anything foreordained about his life and relationships, and he is wounded by suggestions that the deep, raw feelings he experiences are commonplace. Jurinac makes explicit the link between Octavian’s hurt at the Marschallin’s reproaches in Act One and his fury at the Baron’s condescension in Act Two.

Jurinac’s differentiation of Octavian’s “Mariandel” alter ego is subtle; the singer does not trade in egregiously flat singing or nasality. This is a charming Octavian, and a very beautiful one, both vocally and physically, but there have been other charming and beautifully sung Octavians. Jurinac has the imagination and the means to get at something rarer: fantasy. Worlds are opening up to this Octavian. They open up for us as well, and we enter them with him.

Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, the fabled Marschallin, had a first-class musical intelligence, and style and understanding with it. I do not know whether it was her idea or her director’s, but she alone among these eight Marschallins hears the graceful music that follows the words “der Lauf der Welt.” She listens to it, contemplates it, and it generates the next section of the monologue: “Kann mich auch an ein Mädel erinnern.”

Schwarzkopf and Karajan build and shape the Marschallin’s big scenes expertly, but there is more “vocal art” than real singing here, with the voice sounding breathy and under careful management. When Schwarzkopf does put pressure on her instrument and sing out, the tone can harden or sour. We also must take it on faith that this chilly, imperious woman was, not all that long ago, the young girl she describes. Traces of that are too well concealed, and in that sense the interpretation, for all its insistence on itself, has not aged gracefully. Perhaps appropriately, Jurinac gets more of a rapport going with Anneliese Rothenberger‘s radiantly wholesome Sophie.

Otto Edelmann does a practiced traditional “oaf” Baron with deadly consistency, clowning with popping eyes. Best of the others are Giuseppe Zampieri, whose lusty Sänger makes “Di rigori” the golden-toned showstopper it cries out to be but rarely is, and Hilde Rössel-Majdan, singing and acting as though Annina is the most important character in the opera. We end with Octavian and Sophie excitedly running off toward a future that seems bright, as if neither sets not score can contain them any longer.

Rosenkavalier was one of several specialties conductor Carlos Kleiber inherited from his illustrious father. In the first of his two admired video versions, Munich 1979, he looks very happy to be there but charges into orchestral introductions to all three acts before the audience’s applause has died down. That hints at the performance he leads: impulsive, brash, but with smiling good humor. The Bayerisches Staatsorchester was not then the polished ensemble it is today. Their sound in 1979 could be described as full of character.

Director Otto Schenk and set/costume designer Jürgen Rose, like their Salzburg predecessors, reach back to the opera’s earliest days for their mid-18th-century recreation. Stage business is less amusing than it can be; crowds line up stiffly, extras looking like extras. The supporting casting is so-so, and the fine tenor Francisco Araiza‘s crack in the second verse of “Di rigori” (which had sounded stressed from the start) reminds us we are in the days of unedited opera videos.

Fortunately, the stars do the heavy lifting. Brigitte Fassbaender, a mezzo like all the later Octavians in this overview, is quite different from Jurinac: more petulant and butch, intense rather than dreamy, not as suave a vocalist, with some scratchy tone. What is the same is the character’s sensitivity, and the conviction in every attitude Octavian moves through over three hours. Lucia Popp‘s vocal purity secures a draw with her physical maturity. She sings angelically while clasping her hands and looking down a lot, carefully modeling a conventional demure Sophie. Manfred Jungwirth is a fuller, more lifelike standard Ochs than his 1960 counterpart, but sings less steadily.

First among equals is Gwyneth Jones‘s Marschallin. She is every inch the great lady, confident and regal, but with voluptuous sexuality and hints of youth and wildness. Jones was by this point a Brünnhilde, and works to subdue a big, unruly voice for Strauss’s finer lines. She is largely successful, but this is a performance to be seen.

The final third of Act One is a major display of singing and acting, full of illuminating detail. Jones smiles enigmatically while covering the mirror with her hand as the last notes die away. She has more left for the character’s late return. The brief conversation with Sophie drives home for this Marschallin what she had expressed earlier. On some level she may feel unchanged, forever young, but coming face to face with feminine youth makes her feel older than ever. “How can this come about?” is still the undercurrent. Sophie would not sense it, but we can.

Jones moves like a woman born to wear clothes that trail after her. Only twice does she depart from stately grace: alone, realizing with alarm that she had not kissed Octavian before his departure, and in her last moments on the stage, when her back is to him and he kisses her hand. She hurries up the steps to exit that inn and does not risk a glance back. From the trio onward, her eyes shine with resolve, queenly pride, sadness and apparently real tears. This full-bodied, bighearted response to the Marschallin, a career highlight for Jones, is one of the enduring glories in all of filmed opera.

Tomorrow: Moving toward and into the 21st century, we look back at a long-serving Met production and get a hint of the one that will replace it.

  • Walther von Holzhaufen

    Thank you, Porgy. It’s a great pleasure to read another one of your recording/video overviews. I look forward to further installments.

  • Oh goody – another Porgy video retrospective! A lovely first instalment.

    I love this line:

    Jones moves like a woman born to wear clothes that trail after her.

    The opera’s performance history at the Met interested me.

    The company’s second-most-performed Strauss opera, Salome, has not received half as many performances.

    Isn’t that funny. Nowadays, with the great expense of mounting Rosenkavalier, companies are more likely to stage Salome. At the COC, for example, Rosenkavalier hasn’t been staged since 1990 (incidentally, my second live opera experience as a teen), but we’ve had Salome (and Elektra) thrice in the intervening years.

    • Cameron Kelsall

      I don’t know. When I caught this season’s run of Salome at the Met, it was pretty empty. The last time I saw Rosenkavalier, the place was pretty nicely filled. Salome may be shorter and cheaper, but it might be a tougher sell overall.

      • I wasn’t talking about popularity with audiences, just saying that most companies are more likely to stage Elektra and Salome these days vs Rosenkavalier. Whereas, if Met performance history is any indicator, it used to be the other way around.

    • Leontiny

      I was so hoping they’d give us Pieczonka as the Marschallin, and we get Tosca.

  • berkeleygirl

    Popp “modeling a conventionally demure Sophie”? I beg to differ! Over 20 years ago since I first saw the Jones/Fassbender/Popp Rosenkavalier, I still get shivers when, just after 3:15 in this clip, Sophie leans over to smell Octavian’s hair as he smells the rose. I’ve simply never seen a Sophie/Octavian with such magnetic chemistry.

    • berkeleygirl

      You’re spot-on about the moment at the end. (Have you figured out that this is my favorite Rosenkavalier?) Dame Gwyneth is simply stellar, and profoundly moving, in the final scene. No review of this production is complete, though, without mention of Fassbender’s leather (pleather?) coat in the final act. I hope she got to take it with her after the last performance!

  • Luvtennis

    Amazing the power of marketing! Anyone coming to opera in the period from 1975 to 1990 would likely have been led to conclude that there was only ONE Resi. Pictures like that above showing Schwarzkopf at her most ravishing sealed the deal. Truth is, I much preferred Crespin on the Decca recording even as a newbie. And EMI marketing made me feel ashamed for my tastes. Again, damn those Gramophone reviewers (and most of the Penguin guides too)!!! Lol!

    • Camille

      Haha! Me, too, and felt the “SCHMACH” of my preference for the Crespin Marschallin, as the Bessie Blackhead assumption was considered “THE” Marschallin when I was just a sprout.

      [Note to self: listen to that Glyndebourne version just posted last week. And thanks to Il Corvino for that one! ]

      As well to the august Porgy Amor, this very helpful survey and overview/contemplation is very much appreciated, as ever and ever, Amen!

      It’s only that…I really am not very much in the mood right now for Rosenkavalier, nor the teary sentimentalities attendant to this particular set of performances--BUT--as I’ve long now been interested in hearing Garanca’s Octavian, Imma gonna power on through it and, am DEE-lited to be rid of the old staging, which resembled what I imagine to have been the late Joan Rivers’ UES digs. Bring it on.

      • And THE Countess in Capriccio and THE perpetrator of the Four Last Things, in key or not.

        • Camille

          That Capriccio I do like very much and quite a lot more than the Rosenkavalier, even if that did get memorized into the hard-drive, hélas……. I wonder what I did with that recording…gone with the wind…!

          How is April in Paris, NPW?
          Is it raining sur les toîts de Paris?

          Yes, and I do appreciate those albums marked “Références” as a matter of fact as they are sometimes helpful in cutting through the muck.

          • Armerjacquino

            I remember in the late 80s when I came to opera Schwarzkopf seemed to be the soprano in *all* the recordings considered definitive- that ROSENKAV, the Bohm COSI, the Giulini NOZZE and DG, the Matacic MERRY WIDOW…

            • Also, the Karajan Cosi.

            • Camille

              Ja, ja!
              Quite so. Those were the days when one was dished up what the recording studios willed and one said thank you, and that was the end of the matter. I did not know about pirates and there was no Youtube, so…

              In other matters and more importantly--my belated congratulations to you, Jacquino--I am imagining you no longer call yourself “armer”, nor wish to.
              Be true to your love, always, and it shall be true to you!

            • Armerjacquino

              Thank you!

            • rapt

              I’m not the biggest Schwarzkopf fan--but I have to say, I think she does a great job in that Merry Widow.

            • Luvtennis

              I actually like only the Giulini Nozze and DG, and not so much for her honestly. I prefer her live Elvira from Vienna over her performance on the studio -- although the studio recording is wonderful in many respects. I like her Eva. I like her first recorded excerpts of Arabella and Capriccio? And the first, very fast VLL. Other than that I must confess to not having the “proper” appreciation for her recorded art.

              God, knows it might have been nice if Legge had seen fit to record more Jurinac, Gruemmer, and Rysanek.

          • Remarkably mild and sunny here but I’m off to Iran again at the end of the week. No more opera till the (not-very-seasonal) Snow Maiden in two weeks.

            • Porgy Amor

              I hope that that is good; I’ll be checking out the reactions. Tcherniakov usually has an interesting take on Russian operas, including those of R-K (The Tsar’s Bride, Invisible City of Kitezh).

              Aida Garifullina reminds me in some superficial ways, and in the repertoire she is presently singing, of Trebs circa early aughts.


            • I’ve liked what I’ve seen live (Macbeth and Il Trovatore) but less what I’ve seen since on video, e.g. The Tsar’s Bride.

            • manou

              Il risque de faire très chaud en Iran (au propre et au figuré).

            • 24° to 40° C depending on where. The rest is less predictable.

    • fletcher

      Yes, I was definitely told in my early record-collecting days that the Karajan / Schwarzkopf Rosenkavalier was the ONLY one to consider, and specifically that Crespin’s sound was too matronly and and Solti not Viennese enough. I listened to both and picked the Decca because I just love it. I’ll listen to the Kleiber or the Knappertsbusch or the Karajan or the Böhm or even the de Waart (which I quite like) from time to time, and there are others that I’ve sampled of course, but I just won’t give up the Solti as my favorite. Adrianne Pieczonka spoke about her love for the record on Ben Heppner’s podcast a while back. Solti gets a bit of a bum rap around here but I love that RK as much as the brassy Aida.

      • I haven’t heard the Solti though I’ve heard it spoken of very highly. In the live recording that Chris Corwin posted last week, Crespin sounded wonderful in the first act (which is as far as I got). Not matronly at all. Mind you, the performance was from 1959 and I believe the Solti was recorded in 1968.

        • fletcher

          There’s a line of thinking that the “more mature” a Marschallin sounds the less meaningful her sacrifice in the third act sounds, but I’ve never really bought it. My only qualm with Crespin’s Marschallin on the Solti recording is she’s a bit overpowering in the final trio, but the singing is glorious so I’ve never been too bothered.

        • Luvtennis

          There are series of recorded excerpts featuring Crespin in the role from earlier in her career -- I seem to recall…. I also recall finding them extraordinary. Or am I just crazy….

          • rapt

            No, you’re absolutely right--or, in other words, I agree with you. Soderstrom and Gueden appear along with her. Wish there were more of it!

            • Regine (sic) croons through that highlights disc, but Luvtennis can hear it for I think it’s still around — it was released on CD in several incarnations.

              I like her best in the live recordings. In the ones I’ve heard she is entrancing and sings sumptuously. In 69 her voice had darkened and become less responsive, although it is certainly a wonderful reading of the role, very voluptuous and quite witty, qualities many singers of the role miss.

              There is a great echt Viennese supporting cast but Octavian and Sophie are Anglos. I do think Minton is wonderful. I saw her at the Met, and especially in her debut season (it was her only role there) 1973, she was fantastic. Her voice had gotten bigger and she was more formidable in ’77. (I saw her a little later in Geneva as Kundry with Jon — sic — they were both amazing).

              I think Evil Incarnate is best at La Scala (1952, I think) with the great Lisa della Casa as Octavian, and Karajan. I also think she sounds better (although the approach is very similar) in the film. I never liked the commercial record. Ludwig is VERY sharp a lot, Stitch and that white tone are a bit much, and Evil’s intent seems footnoted as though she were anxious one could miss it.

              I am heartbroken (HEARTBROKEN, do you hear?) that NO ONE has mentioned the fantastic Erich Kleiber recording on Decca. I think it is the best commercial Rosenkavalier (and is note complete). Erich has an incredible command of the score and a spectacular rapport with the VPO. Every detail is realized easily and apparently spontaneously, he creates an inevitable seeming whole for each act, and justifies the padding and overwriting. It is, I think, the deftest and wittiest performance. He doesn’t slight the sentimental passages but fits them logically and effortlessly into acts one and three. They are very touching but don’t capsize the opera.

              Jurinac and Ludwig Weber are just perfect as Octavian and Ochs. Both sing gorgeously, and he REALLY sings, no barking, faking or ducking anything and he does everything asked for in the score. He creates a suitably louche character but with charm and elegance. He is unlike anybody else in the infinite insinuation he manages and the touches of unsentimental pathos. And E. Kleiber is with him every step of the way.

              Jurinac gives a similar performance, sung with phenomenal lustrous beauty and ease, full of charm, with sweetness and vulnerability no one else, IMO, achieves to the same degree.

              Somewhere else there were those remembering their (English) record reviews and putting down Maria Reining (who DAST record the role when EVIL OWNED it???), but she too is wonderful. Although her voice is not really fresh sounding on the record (but is in a live performance from Vienna in the same year conducted by KNA) she lives the role. I don’t think anyone else has the same light touch in give and take with the other characters, and she feels her sudden sadness and fear — it’s not some PRESENTATION of a mood. Her generosity of manner in act three is also very touching. And although it’s not her best recording, I love the sound of her voice. It’s mono, but clear and well balanced. The only Strauss performances I’d compare it with are Reiner’s amazing Salome in ’49, Metropoulos’ Salzburg Elektra and maybe Herbie the K’s Elektra, although that may be due to the amazing Varnay and ME, Martha never say die Modl (who did not condescend to Resi but did do Octavian, stretches of it were taped live in London.)

              I have also been fond of the Janet (sic) Helga (sic) and Elizabeth Harwood (of a Tebaldiesque sweetness, she died young) performance. Janet (sic) actually sings with beautiful tone, much intensity and some vulnerability. Helga has her difficulties here and there but I love her sound and manner. It’s in English.

            • Luvtennis

              I never fully appreciated Reining until I heard some of the earlier records on Preiser?!? I remember feeling about her the way I felt about Leider, strange to say, or Konetzni. The singing had the naturalness of speech while being wonderfully luminous. That probably makes no sense.

            • “I am heartbroken (HEARTBROKEN, do you hear?) that NO ONE has mentioned the fantastic Erich Kleiber recording on Decca.”

              It’s the only one I have in fact.

            • Bill

              Reining was revered in Vienna in an entire spate of roles and by 1955 she was at the very end of her illustrious career with her farewell to the Vienna Opera in March 1956 (as Elisabeta in Don Carlo preceded by a final Marschallin that same monh. Mrs. J.C. is correct that Reining is in fresher voice in he live November 1955 Rosenkavalier recorded during the re-opening weeks at the restored Vienna Opera than in the Erich Kleiber recording earlier that year. It is interesting that Jurinac, in an interview, once indicated that she preferred Hilde Konetzni’s Marshallin to that of Schwarzkopf or della Casa. Konetzni retired the role in 1960.

              I still listen to the Boehm 1955 DGG (Dresden forces) recording of Rosenkavalier the most frequently. The
              Presentation of the Rose scene (Streich,
              Seefried) is the most exquisite of all and in the trio the 3 ladies blend terrifically -- far better than in the Karajan Schwarzkopf,
              Ludwig, Stich-Randall as good as it is). I also like Kurt Boehme and Fischer-Dieskau as Faninal. My first introduction to the opera was a series of extracts on a 10 inch record -- the Presentation of the Rose with
              Seefried and Schwarzkopf as Sophie and a conductor unlisted (it was 1947 and Karajan was not allowed officially then to record so his name did not crop up in the label). Seefried is breathlessly gorgeous and Schwarzkopf, of whom this is the only recorded sample I think of her Sophie, was
              totally unaffected at the time as was her Gretel extracts recorded with Krips). The other side was the end of act II with Ludwig Weber 8 years prior to his complete Kleiber Ochs.

              I first actually saw Rosenkavalier with Varnay as the Marschallin in 1952 (Flagstad had been offered the role by Bing but refused it) -- I really do not recall so much of Varnay’s singing but her imperious acting -- lots of hand nuances -- was telling -- Ochs was Endre Koreh, the Hungarian bass who probably never came back to the Met, but who was effective .
              The next Met Marschallin was della Casa (both performances with Rise Stevens but the latter with Gueden and Edelmann as Ochs).

              I rather do not think one can single out
              the most exemplary Marschallin over the years -- some exude Viennese warmth, others a colder stylishness -- some are more naturally playful, others tinged with sadness in the voice (such as Jurinac),
              some were not particularly glamorous to watch (Gessendorf, Isokoski ) but sang exquisitely. Some may not have known precisely what words they were singing (Kiri) but emitted lovely tones. Some such as Studer gave marvelous performances but then sang one or two higher notes flat marring the moment. Some could launch the great 3rd act trio with breathless vocal beauty -- some stumble a bit in the 1st act parlando passages (Rysanek) -- some (as Fleming in the previous Met production do everything correctly but seem too studied in their movements). Schwarzkopf perhaps also (particularly in the Salzburg film -- the music was taped earlier and Schwarzkopf had not sung the live performances that season, it was della Casa) but in an interview once Schwarzkopf indicated she had to change her interpretation to suit the various Octavians with whom she was performing, Jurinac, Seefried {the most impetuous and spontaneous} , Ludwig etc ). Generally the last solo bow is granted to the Octavian, the title role -- but I was at performances in Vienna for example when della Casa sang with not widely known Octavians and della Casa took the final cast solo bow.

              Actually in some of the Rosenkavaliers I have seen where the period of the set/costumes was updated to late 19th or early 20th century periods, I was not as impressed with the overall effect no matter how adept the staging. We shall see about this new one at the Met -- In 65 years at the Met I have only seen two productions both quite traditional. Whatever we get his time
              we shall probably have to live with for over 30 years. Hope it is superlative.

      • Luvtennis

        I like the Aida more just because of Price and Vickers -- if I am not mistaken, he was the Radames at her breakthrough performance at Coventry Garden and they are spectacular together. I also much prefer Aida to Der Rosenkavalier. ????

        • AGH

          For the record -- Guichandut was the Radames when Price sang her first Aida in London (July 1958) -- and he was hopeless. Price deputized for Cerquetti who had appendix problems. but, as The Times critic wrote. ‘Without disrespect and with every hope of hearing her before long it can be said that her absence was a blessing in disguise in that it revealed a soprano singer with a voice in a thousand.’ Other critics and the audience, of whom I was fortunate enough to have been one, agreed. When she returned in May 1959 it was with Vickers.(who in Summer 1958 was heavily engaged in the groundbreaking production of Don Carlos and in repeats of The Trojans.)

          • Luvtennis

            A great reminder of Vickers’ versatility! Verdi, Wagner, Britten, Berlioz and Handel! Wow!


    …’forever to be missed’.
    That’s poetry.

  • Batty Masetto

    A dear singer friend mitigated my enthusiasm for Betty Blackhead’s Resi back in the day: she was unimpressed, saying “she resonates out of every possible cavity but her asshole.”

    By the way, at some point somebody mentioned “Resi” as indicating that the Marschallin comes from some kind of lower social class -- but it’s a pet name that might come from anywhere and by which (at least she assumes) she is widely known and popular (“siehgst es, da gehts’, die alte Fürstin Resi”). (Cue the parallel discussion on first names for singers here a few days ago.)

    Hofmannsthal can be such a a subtle, understated writer sometimes that in our highly literalist era it’s terribly easy to miss what he’s saying and doing. I’m so happy Porgy recognizes how very beautiful the language is. (I should have known he would.)

    • That was I, Batty. We always disagree on these things. So think what you will. And I did not say, “some lower social class”. I think I suggested she was not of the same standing as her husband. Her empathy for Sophie may well be based on her having been through the same thing: a wealthy papa marrying her off to someone of much greater social standing. That Ochs is her cousin, although a distant one, might also suggest less than an illustrious background, though again, not a “lower class”.

      It’s not just Hofmannsthal, as opera is never just the words, but Strauss’ prelude which tells us in purple detail about “Resi’s” sexual appetite. Such are not unheard of among princes and queens but still…

      • Batty Masetto

        Ah well, Mrs. JC, as you suggest, one can disagree on these things… I also tend to hear the prelude as much more “in the moment” than you do; to me it suggests another reason why Oktavian is so special to her.

        But I think as well that what keeps any great work afloat is the possibility of multiple interpretations.