Cher Public

The frailty of everything earthly

If everything you see is great, you are either new to opera or chronically easy to please. Neither condition is anything of which to be ashamed, but the development of standards over a period of years is something to be embraced. Standards make it mean more when something really is worth raving over. 

No matter how much you see, if you go back often enough, you will have one of those evenings (or afternoons, as the case may be) when all the stars align, the right people and the right work come together at the right time, and the result lives up to or exceeds every reasonable expectation. You feel happy to be alive and going to the opera at the time the performance took place.

The Met HD of Der Rosenkavalier on May 13 was a high-inducing performance. There have been equally good performances in this decade-long series, though not many. There has been none better.

Director Robert Carsen‘s view of the 1911 Strauss/Hofmannsthal evergreen has not changed greatly since his 2004 Salzburg staging. Although he has different designers this time (his Falstaff team of Paul Steinberg on sets and Brigitte Reiffenstuel on costumes, replacing Salzburg’s Peter Pabst), the outer acts look very similar. Details of the direction have been retained, such as Annina’s larcenous revenge on Ochs at the end of the second act.

Siegmund Freud has been replaced by some military medics following the “duel,” among other minor differences. New choreography for the Presentation of the Rose, while elegant and lovely in itself, seems to be in this production solely because Mr. Carsen wanted to work with the worthy Philippe Giraudeau again.

In a broader sense, Mr. Carsen has been consistent in his approach and his focus. This is Rosenkavalier as a response to its own era. The director has set the opera in an increasingly decadent Vienna on the eve of the Great War, and emphasized humor, sexual politics and the twilight of an era. My colleague Christopher Corwin‘s comparison to Renoir’s La Règle de Jeu, in his review of opening night, is apt.

In the recent parterre box video overview, I commented that Mr. Carsen’s Salzburg Rosenkavalier was “funny, sexy and thought-provoking.” I left it implied, in the context of various productions discussed, that other Rosenkavaliers have tugged harder at the heartstrings. All of this remains the case.

It was the performers and their circumstances that supplied a new emotional dimension at the Met on May 13. Two of our great stars, Renée Fleming (the Marschallin) and Elina Garanca (Octavian), were performing for the last time roles in which they have been good, and roles that have been good to them in return. Beyond that, we had the unusual situation of an HD broadcast of the final performance in a series, rather than, say, the fifth of eight. There was perceptible electricity in everyone’s work, the adrenaline that comes from the finish line being in sight, with no need to save anything.

I have not heard the Met’s orchestra sound better in the 2016-17 season than it did today under the leadership of German conductor Sebastian Weigle. His reading was “deliberate” not in the sense of unusual slowness (the maestro did allow his Marschallin to milk), but in an insistence on the precise articulation of phrases, and in the elucidation of fine details within the blend. I often have complained that the in-theater sound of the Met HDs prioritizes voices to the point that the orchestral contribution is distant and soupy. Even the sound balance seemed improved today.

Maestro Weigle replaced the originally scheduled James Levine, who withdrew at the time he relinquished his position of music director more than a year ago. If anyone missed the guiding hand of the venerable music director emeritus this afternoon, I feel it would have to have been on grounds of sentiment. There was nothing to regret in the response of the orchestra, and Maestro Weigle can come visit New York anytime.

There were two utterly spectacular, golden-age performances, and the opera’s title character, Octavian, seems an obvious place to start. As transmitted to movie theaters, Ms. Garanca’s voice now sounds huge. She commented in her intermission interview, with regard to changing repertoire, that for so long she has played a young boy chasing girls; now it is time to let the boys chase her. On today’s evidence, she is putting away childish things at the right time, while leaving us a parting gift to savor.

Lyric mezzos long ago absconded with a role created by a soprano (Eva von der Osten, an Isolde). We should be so lucky as to have mezzo Octavians of Ms. Garanca’s caliber as the norm. The Latvian’s upper register encompasses Octavian’s higher-lying writing without a hint of strain (near the end, “War ein haus wo” was so juicy and full that I looked forward to Amneris cursing the priests). The bottom is rich, warm, resonant.

There was a point at which I was startled by the beauty of the singing in a most unexpected place—the apology to Faninal (“Ein muss mich pardonieren”) came out in lines of such beautiful continuity and evenness that it seemed a fragment of a lost Schubert lied. What Ms. Garanca did on the stage in this production is a forceful rebuttal, or at least a stiff challenge, to any description of her as a “cold” performer.

This was a truly heroic Octavian: upright, suave, thoughtful. We can see why the Marschallin will feel his loss, and why Sophie is so lucky to have him enter her life. The operatic stage features no more beautiful face, either as boy or girl, and the mezzo’s Marlene Dietrich impersonation for Mariandel’s Act Three mischief was limber, funny and extremely sexy. The troublesome stretch of Act Three prior to the Marschallin’s arrival, which passes like a sentence of hard time when director and performers are not up to it, has never been more entertaining to me.

Nearly matching Ms. Garanca was Günther Groissböck as Baron Ochs. I first saw this promising portrayal in Harry Kupfer‘s wistful Salzburg production of three summers ago, and it has matured wonderfully since then. Again Mr. Groissböck is a highly plausible Ochs of a superficially desirable type—young, tall, athletic and handsome—but repellent in words and behavior.

Mr. Groissböck expertly delineates Ochs’s journey through Carsen’s inversion of the third act, one of the production’s masterstrokes. Ochs is forced to assume “the defensive position” he had smugly regretted was the lot of women. He finds himself fending off the sexually voracious Mariandel, and when depravity is revealed all around him, and it is beyond his control, he wants to flee a hell of ironic punishment.

Mr. Groissböck’s mellow, colorful instrument is most at ease in the Baron’s higher-lying writing, of which there is a great deal in this long part. If there are lower notes he sounds happy to greet and leave, he cheats nothing while making his rounds. His is a highly musical reading of a part in which many a bass has gotten by on desiccated parlando shtick. Just as Ms. Garanca had me anticipating future Amnerises, Mr. Groissböck’s cries of “Mord! Mord! Mein Blut!” and his yelps of pain made me think of Boris Godunov haunted and expiring.

I join Our Own JJ in looking forward to much more at the Met from this performer, who first created a stir by making an incestuous Water Goblin riveting, and now has twice made Baron Ochs improbably likable, in two very different productions. It seems there is not much beyond him.

Sophie von Faninal is the hard-luck assignment of the four principals, the shortest part and the one Hofmannsthal gave the fewest facets. Once in a while you read appreciation for some soprano who was “unexpectedly” feisty in the part, which shows how challenging it is to review singers in certain roles, because anyone who knows the libretto should expect Sophie to be feisty with Faninal and Ochs. It would be unexpected if she were other than feisty.

What was unexpected to me in Erin Morley‘s Sophie for Mr. Carsen was a certain sophistication and precocity. In a lesser production, this might have seemed an off note, a 36-year-old soprano playing a 36-year-old Sophie. Here, it works well. I could imagine this was a Sophie who learned from plays and literature how worldly women spoke, behaved and moved. In a later era, such a young woman would be influenced by ladies of movies and television.

Ms. Morley spoke of loving to sing “high, floaty stuff,” and such writing does show her to best advantage. The middle voice is more nondescript and projects less strongly. She looked lovely, creating beautiful stage pictures in scenes with Ms. Garanca, but also establishing a connection that was both emotional and sensual. Carsen’s very physical staging of “Ist ein Traum” thus paid off.

Ms. Fleming has done some of the best work of her career in Mr. Carsen’s productions (Alcina, Rusalka, Capriccio and a revival of Eugene Onegin that was overseen by others). She has named him as a favorite director, and it was at her request that he returned to Rosenkavalier at the ROH and the Met in 2016-17. It seems fitting that “the people’s diva” and “the diva next door” is taking her leave of “mainstream” opera, as she calls it, as a good team player.

Ms. Fleming must have been aware of the filmed Salzburg Rosenkavalier with Adrianne Pieczonka, and thus must have had an idea that Mr. Carsen’s would not be the most Marschallin-focused Rosenkavalier possible, even within strictures of the characters’ respective stage time. It is to Ms. Fleming’s credit that she wanted to be part of something good, a strong production of the opera under consideration, rather than a personal showcase.

At moments on Saturday, one could feel that the clocks had stopped. Ms. Fleming’s high notes still sound with remarkable beauty (the earliest evidence was “Das möcht ich sehn,” the Marschallin’s vow of immovability), and no part of her range has suffered in accuracy of pitch. Inevitably, her seniority and long service were detectable. Broadcast conditions mitigated audibility concerns that might have been an issue in the house in less congenial passages, but microphones also highlighted a growly quality from the lower middle down, where the grit and grain have collected.

Ms. Fleming sang parts of the role on Saturday with obvious emotion, and twice I was aware of her reining herself in, guarding against being overcome. She sang as though holding on, not wanting to let go of a departing friend, which just about sums it up. This was not the best-sung Marschallin of her career on technical grounds, but I do not believe anyone went in expecting that from a 58-year-old soprano on an emotional occasion.

I could criticize her on some expressive levels—sometimes I wished for a lighter touch, a wider palette of irony, sharper contrasts that really never have been hers to command. It is to her credit that such thoughts did not come to me often.

Ms. Fleming admirably played her role in the production, and in the opera: the one character of the five major figures whose aspirations are in the past. Unlike Octavian, the Baron and both Faninals, the Marschallin is never excited about something yet to come. She looks back wistfully, considers the future only with anxiety, sings of wanting time to stand still. No wonder she has been, from the beginning, the favorite of opera audiences.

I will not comment on every member of the large, generally good supporting cast. Matthew Polenzani sweetly sang and amusingly acted the Italian tenor’s brutally difficult number. He was done up as a white-suited faux Caruso, as Piotr Beczala was in Salzburg, but Mr. Polenzani sported the iconic moustache.

Markus Brück was a rather blunt Faninal, with more voice than some (albeit with a quaver that may or may not have been a character touch), but not finding the humanity of the best. Bass Scott Conner, in his first Met role, was a Police Commissioner to notice. Twenty-four years into his Met career, tenor Tony Stevenson appeared to be having a great time with the Innkeeper’s drag act.

The production received a mixed response on its opening night last month, and I doubt this greatly troubled Mr. Carsen. He is a savvy professional who has worked all over the world for 30 years and has heard it all. His Eugene Onegin was savaged by many here 20 years ago, and was cherished by the time of its replacement. I predict his Rosenkavalier will settle in nicely and that new casts will welcome its opportunities.

Staging a work such as Rosenkavalier means making choices, and Mr. Carsen and his team intelligently met the challenge here, delivering something valid, entertaining and worth discussing. The premiere cast brought that work to life on the stage and created the illusion of life being lived on the stage. This happens less often than we might hope. I hope Mr. Carsen returns soon and often. If Peter Gelb would like to contact me privately, I will supply names of three repeatedly engaged directors whose future workloads can be lightened to make room.

As everyone notes, Rosenkavalier is a “bittersweet” opera, and I was keenly aware today of how that bittersweet quality can be found all throughout it. I suppose we all have realized that the accompaniment to “Nein, nein” (Mariandel’s coquettish vow not to drink wine) returns as the beloved trio’s climax. The frivolous and the profound both are part of life; there is no separating them, and one may even lead to the other, Strauss seems to be telling us. The ridiculous Ochs’s visit prompts the Marschallin’s reverie, and everything that follows.

It had never hit me before Saturday afternoon that even one of the most musically joyful moments in Rosenkavalier has a darker tinge. “Bleiben?” Sophie asks in the second act; “…was sie Ist!” replies Octavian. His love is predicated on the keeping of an impossible promise, that this young woman remain exactly what she is on the day he met her. Did the Feldmarschal once have such an expectation of Little Resi? But we do not see things clearly at 17.

I also thought about the people around me at the HD screening. It was a senior-heavy crowd, as they usually are, and I overheard some conversations, initiated some others. I heard of a Rosenkavalier a woman attended 40 years ago with her now-late husband, and of favorite singers, favorite operas, memorable performances.

I heard much appreciation for the HD series. I talked with a woman from Germany who was seeing and hearing Mr. Groissböck for the first time, and adoring him (she approved of the cast’s pronunciation in general). I heard prolonged applause at the end, for singers and players unable to hear that applause.

These operagoers are more than just the canes and walkers and oxygen tubing we notice first; they are an awesome repository of life experience and wisdom. They are still showing up for something new, and many of them are taking it on its terms.

We often hear fretting along the lines of “What if this were someone’s first Rosenkavalier?” or “What if this were someone’s first opera?” What is less often asked is “What if this were someone’s last?” Some of the people around me Saturday will not see another Rosenkavalier. Indeed, I may not; no one guarantees us any number of years. If I never saw any other opera, I would feel I went out on a high today. There is a long list of things in life that time erases and memory mocks. Great performances such as Saturday’s will never be on that list.

There are no further live performances of Der Rosenkavalier at the Met this season, as the 2016-17 season is now part of the theater’s glorious history. The HD broadcast will receive an encore presentation at most participating theaters on Wednesday, 6:30 p.m. Eastern. Check local listings, and if you did not go on Saturday, do not miss a second chance.

Photo Jonathan Tichler/Metropolitan Opera.

  • Astute, O Porgy, but so touching too!!! Wonderful!

  • Camille

    Wouldn’t it be much smarter to be part of a good production at this point, rather than a big showcase; especially as she most certainly did do that back in the lavish 2008 opening night? As well, even if die Feldmarschallin is not the protagonist name character, she is surely the most beloved one and has the (slightly) shorter and less demanding role for her age. I’d say that adds up to a great deal of stage savvy and not just a wish to be a good part of “The Team”, which she also may well want to be!

    As someone rather dismayed by her 2000 take on the Marschallin and who has half-heartedly listened in on subsequent takes, this was where I’d wanted her to be all these long years with this role, and am so happy for her beautiful leavetaking, a permanent souvenir of an opera which she has held so dearly. Whatever any individual may feel or think about Ms Fleming, her impact has been real and it is likely lasting and of incalculable reach. She has touched many hearts and for that I thank her.

    Splendid review insofar as I now am aware of the facts, and which will bear in mind on Wednesday’s repeat.

    • fletcher

      Thank you, dear Camille, for your kind words of advice for my Met visit. Unfortunately I didn’t have the courage to approach any strangers but I did have a fair amount of wine and briefly chatted with Isaac Mizrahi in line for an overpriced cookie. It was a really wonderful afternoon. I lost it at Polenzani’s perfect “Di rigori” and never really got it back together.

      • operadunce

        Fletcher, I was in the audience on Saturday and I am sorry that I did not take the opportunity to try to make contact with you. I am not really a Parterrian, merely a lurker, (and an unapologetic Fleming fan) and I didn’t want to risk any of the experts spoiling the moment for me. Too bad. It sounds like we could have had a good cry together. For me, the most emotional point of the afternoon was the end of Act I, really the entire Marschallin’s monologue and then her following scene with Octavian. I was so moved when, after preparing to leave for church, she approached the front of the stage and as though looking in the mirror, adjusted her hat and patted her hair. It was a moment where Fleming seemed to be looking directly at the audience and without really breaking character, saying goodbye to this particular relationship in a very personal and touching way. No doubt it was my imagination, but it felt as if the whole audience was holding its breath.

  • Yes, absolutely the superb performance I attended yesterday at the MET. I do hope the MET remembers Mr. Groissböck when casting Barak in its next revival of Die Frau ohne Schatten

    • I think he’d be a better Barak. Porgy is certainly right that he can handle lower notes but his voice sits more easily toward the top.

      • I seem to espy many good examples of “word salad” around Parterre from one contributor in particular. And what arrogance and grandiosity to write about Fleming:”AND I THANK HER” — does this individual think it’s the Pope? Really! The Popessa of Queens!

        • CwbyLA

          What in the world is wrong with you MrsJohn?

          • There’s quite a bit wrong with me, CwbyLA, but I don’t think I’m in error. Fleming has done her job, and I know believes she has been very lucky in being able to have the career she has had. That’s luck plus an enormous amount of hard work, also some choices (mainly to preserve the loveliness and steadiness of her tone) that not everyone has applauded. Nothing she’s done was done without a lot of thought, and sometimes that was too obvious. But she is an outstanding example of a professional singer at the highest level.

            But why would one THANK her? She did what she wanted, she’s been paid handsomely, she is more famous than most opera singers of this generation, and it’s very likely that she’s going to continue, less with staged opera (perhaps) but as a prominent serious singer and a strong advocate for the art.

            I knew Tebaldi very well, and a good many others to the same degree or less well. Many were wonderful singers, even miracles of a sort. I admired them of course but I never THANKED them. It just seems a weird locution to me, and a self important one.

            Any of them would have told you that thanks comes at the bows, if you’re lucky, in the fees, if you’re very lucky in some people remembering you fondly after your time has past. They also know what it is to walk to the hotel after a wildly acclaimed performance in the rain alone. I once walked Soederstrom who was doing just that after a Rosenkavalier. We stopped at the same traffic light and I congratulated her — I didn’t thank her for doing her job which I had paid to see. And she would have thought it odd of me to thank her, because all she had done was her job —

            She was happy to talk and I walked her back to her hotel and we had a drink. I’m sure she thought the loneliness was part of the job, and part of the luck — the not so great part — because if she hadn’t been willing to travel on her own she wouldn’t have had the career she did.

            I suppose I am made queasy by “fan” sentimentality, I find it nauseating — and phony. But that’s me.

            • CwbyLA

              Well, there is a lot in your post and it is hard for me to understand your sentiments. A lot of people thank others for doing their jobs. I thank the flight attendants, bus drivers, etc etc. Many others do, too. These people are also paid for their jobs. I don’t see thanking an opera singer the way you do. I believe a singer like Fleming (and several others) deserves thanks.

      • Rick

        When listening to the 50 years gala, I was impressed neither with the ease of emission nor with the quality (the beauty) of the high notes in Mr Groissböck’s singing of Philippo. I also did not think that his Ochoa sounded like somebody who would be a natural Barak.

        Of course, maybe the said parts are very different- and maybe Mr Groissböck would be a great Barak.

  • Astute, O Porgy, but so touching too!!! Wonderful!

  • KarenMrsLloydRichards

    I certainly enjoyed the Ochs-as-Trump aspects of the production.

    Fleming made me cry, without crying herself, so she did her job well.

  • Greg Freed

    (Now we are all guessing at your three directors needing a lighter load. I feel certain I know at least one of them.)

  • Niel Rishoi

    Wonderful review, Porgy. All your details and assessments are so keen and thoughtful.

  • southerndoc1

    Great review -- you agree with me on everything!

  • Niel Rishoi

    OK, in the opinion of Parterrians, what is the best sung, most fabulous tenor aria Di rigori armato ever recorded?

    • southerndoc1

      Easy for me -- my favorite tenor:

      • Ivy Lin
        • Bill

          Ivy -- I saw Fritz Wunderlich as the tenor
          in Rosenkavalier in Vienna in 1965 and it was probably the best rendition of the aria I have ever seen -- I do not know where this version you selected came from but I noticed that there was some excerpts of a live performance of Rosenkavalier from Vienna in the spring of 1966 with much the same cast as I saw in 1965 on Utube under the name
          Rosenkavalier Vienna 1966 (or something
          like that) and the Wunderlich aria is included. The sound of the approx one hour of the performance is atrocious but one can hear the beauty of his rendition and the other singers are Rysanek, Lipp, Seefried and Edelmann conducted by Cluytens -- I saw the same cast (with the exception of Lipp and Cluytens). When Wunderlich began to sing in the performance I saw in 1965 there was this really hushed audience involvement of intent listening. I must say though that Tauber sounds magnificent.
          Some tenors try very hard to make the aria a parody of a tenor singing with vocal over- emoting, but Wunderlich sang the aria straight when I saw him -- just a glorious outpouring of natural sound -- and Tauber seems to sing it in similar fashion. Thanks for posting both versions

          • Daniel Swick

            It’s a really beautiful melody, why not sing it beautifully?

            • Bill

              Dermota was a fine tenor in Rosenkavalier- he sang the role 114 times at the Vienna Opera. Gedda was good also. Botha sang it once but it must have been quite an outpouring of sound

    • Porgy Amor

      All I will add is that within the context of a complete filmed performance, Giuseppe Zampieri (Karajan/Czinner) is my favorite.


    Porgy this was so beautifully written and I love the way you captured the essence of the story even in the audience that you were sitting in. It is one of those pieces that makes us pause and breathe deeply for a moment when it’s performed with its proper due. But my sly smile when,”If Peter Gelb would like to contact me privately…”
    Bravo my friend.

  • Porgy Amor

    I wanted to share Franz Grundheber’s beautifully expressed compliment to Ms. Fleming, which has the bonus of his wisdom on a role and opera he knows so well.

    I really enjoy the last sentence. That’s the only place where Faninal can sing like a Schubert song. ‘That’s what young people are like.’ And it’s quite special, just these words alone and the situation the Marschallin is in, that we’re both in, which I don’t completely understand. Naturally I haven’t caught on that Octavian had a relationship with the Marschallin. All I can see is that Octavian and my Sophie have come together, and so the marriage to Ochs is off.

    But somehow Faninal has a suspicion, because he sings to the Marschallin gently, almost tenderly — here [in Herbert Wernicke’s production] it’s beautifully done, from one coach to the other. He looks at the two young people, looks at the Marschallin and says, ‘That’s what young people are like today.’ And the Marschallin replies with the words ‘Ja, ja.’ The way Renée Fleming colors that contains all the sadness, the gentle irony, pain, composure and poise too, that anyone can put into two notes and two vowels.

    The production was worth doing just for that one phrase from her.

  • CwbyLA

    Porgy, thank you for sharing this beautiful writing with us. I was incredibly moved by the performance and the occasion.

  • Ivy Lin

    Great review Porgy. I agree with you about the high quality of music-making across the board, and I think it was somehow fitting that Fleming didn’t have the last curtain call (Elina Garanca came out last). Fleming was showered with confetti and shown great affection by the crowd but it’s as if she wanted to be as graceful as the Marschallin in her exit.

    • Armerjacquino

      Title character gets the last curtain call. I don’t know if Fleming deliberately chose the Marschallin so she didn’t have to have a big, who’s best, final *moment*- but she’ll have known that Garanca would get the final call when she took the gig.

      • Rick

        Is that always the case, Armerjacquino, that the title character get the last bow? I imagine there must be a number of exceptions to the rule. For instance in The Fledermaus, Dr. Falke would not get the last bow. What about La Muette de Portici?

        I believe I have seen Susanna getting the last bow in Figaro (but my memory could be playing tricks). Given the respective size and importance of the various parts, it would strike me as odd to give the last curtain call to Tito rather than Vitellia or Sextus.

        I assume there are other examples.

        • CKurwenal

          No doubt you could unearth lots more examples if you put your mind to it, but it generally holds true and I think especially in something like Rosenkavalier where not only is Octavian the title character, but it is also a much longer role than the Marschallin.

          • Rick

            I agree totally, CKurwenal.

          • Daniel Swick

            And, I would suggest, a more difficult sing.

        • Porgy Amor

          Our kashania, in a discussion off the board, mentioned Roberto Devereux. Title character, but not likely to bow after the Queen. But these are exceptions to the rule, of course.

          Now I wish I’d paid more attention to order of bows in all those Rosenkavaliers I watched. My perception, though, is not that nowadays you’d almost always see the Octavian going last, but in more distant times, it was quite commonly the Marschallin, stage time and billing notwithstanding. Just because, you know, it’s the “glamour role” and often people were coming to see whatever soprano was singing it act the great lady and be wise and fix everything

          • CKurwenal

            Funny, I was going to mention Roberto Devereux -- Capalbo took his bow last, after Cullagh, in the production in which I was involved. I imagine it might be a different story in say Munich with Gruberova, however…

          • Bill

            Porgy -- I have seen many Rosenkavaliers in different opera houses (I think 53 in all) and every time but once, the Octavian took the final bow even if the soprano singing the Marschallin was more celebrated than the Octavian. The exception was in 1966 in Vienna when Lisa della Casa sang the Marschallin and Margareta Ast sang the Octavian and della Casa took the final bow.
            A couple of weeks earlier della Casa sang
            the Marschallin with Christa Ludwig, the Octavian, and Ludwig took the final bow.
            It could be that Ast insisted della Casa
            take the final bow -- the only other major role
            Ast sang in Vienna was Niklausse -- otherwise she was the 3rd Dame in Zauberfloete, the 3rd Magt in Elektra etc.
            At the Met in recent times they do not have solo bows (or any bows) at the end of the acts -- in Vienna and most other houses where singers bow after each act quite often the first bow in Rosenkavalier after the first act is the Marschallin alone, at the 2nd act the Ochs alone, and in the third act Octavian and Sophie together alone. Then all the singers come out together, then solo bows -- depending upon the applause. At the end of the opera quite often the conductor actually has the last solo bow (in Rosenkavalier after the Octavian’s solo bow). I do not know why the Met stopped the tradition of singers taking bows after each act and I suppose there are exceptions for it would make little sense for the Komponist in Ariadne to wait until the end of the opera to make her solo bow. In Vienna usually the Komponist and the Music Master come out first together -- after the prologue, then all the players then solo bows for the Music Master and last the Komponist. In a couple of Ariadnes I have seen the Komponist is still on stage someplace during the Opera Seria itself -- though without uttering a note of course.
            Mostly in Le Nozze di Figaro, the title role, Figaro takes the last bow even if the Susanna is more celebrated. One can gauge the audiences’ reaction to each singer by the applause -- For a couple of
            years circa November 1953-5 for some reason Bing banned solo curtains altogether -- it got Goltz in trouble with the management for on the occasion of her Met debut as Salome, she logically took a solo bow at the end of the opera when she had a triumph and Bing never again engaged her.

        • Armerjacquino

          Every time I’ve seen Tito the tenor has taken the final bow, and every Figaro too.

          FLEDERMAUS (metaphor) and MUETTE (non-singer) would obviously be different cases. And as CK points out, quite often even an opera not named after its diva would follow the convention.

          Porgy: I’m pretty sure the convention has always been followed in ROSENKAV. I remember reading about a 50s Marschallin who used to enrage Oktavians by taking an endlessly long call and keeping them waiting, which I always assumed was Schwarzkopf.

          • Max

            The first Rosenkavalier I saw at the Met, forty-four years ago, featured Christa Ludwig as the Marschallin and Brigitte Fassbaender as Octavian. I’m ninety percent certain that Ludwig got the final bow.

        • actfive

          Remember back in ’79, when the Pavarotti-Scotto feud began when he took the last bow instead of La Gioconda..

      • Max

        The first Rosenkavalier I saw at the Met was with Christa Ludwig and Brigitte Fassbaender, and I’m at least ninety percent certain that Ludwig as the Marschallin took the final bow.

      • Joe Murray

        I suspect Octavian has the most lines and works his/her ass off in all 3 acts. The Marschallin can catch up on Netflix during Act 2.

        Wasn’t the original working title of the opera “Ochs von Lerchenau”? Would he have bowed last? Probably.

  • Armerjacquino

    “She looks back wistfully, considers the future only with anxiety, sings
    of wanting time to stand still. No wonder she has been, from the
    beginning, the favorite of opera audiences.”


  • Yige Li

    “three repeatedly engaged directors whose future workloads can be lightened to make room”

    Bartlett Sher, Richard Eyre, David McVicar?

    Agree with the first 2. As for Sir David, I feel the problem is MET, not him. I think he can make some good work if given some co-production that has its “real” premiere somewhere else.

    • I’m sure Sher is one. If I were making a list of there, I’d include Zimerman as well.

      • Yige Li

        I thought Zimerman instead of Sir David at first, but then hesitated to describe her as “repeatedly engaged” for 3 productions.

        • She’s had four — Lucia, Sonnambula, Armida, and Rusalka. So four productions in 10 years. Not nearly as bad as a new Sher production every friggin’ season, but quite enough.

          • Liz.S

            So all three of us strongly agree that Mr. Sher is No.1!

            The other two I thought of was Lepage and Michael Mayer. Mayer’s previous work was shockingly shallow but he may not be considered as someone who’s repeatedly engaged.

            I understand what you might mean re: Zimerman and McVicar.
            Eyre is very experienced but very new to operatic works? He showed some improvements in Nozze so my opinion is still pending.

            • Porgy Amor

              The fact that we have numerous plausible candidates is a bad sign in itself.

              Eyre and McVicar are not that exciting, but I have liked some of their Met productions: Carmen, the Pagliacci half of the double bill. The Trovatore is decent, which is better than can be said for the Met’s previous two. McVicar has done productions I have loved for other theaters (Meistersinger, Nozze di Figaro).

              Jury still out on Mayer. The Vegas Rigoletto was no great shakes, but it was not embarrassing for a first-timer (though that was true in a couple other cases that went on downward trajectories). Now he is coming back in both Traviata and Marnie in 2018-19. I wish him luck.

              I will say that in general, with a notable exception or two such as the great Minghella and Girard, my favorite Met productions of the Gelb years have been the ones by people who showed up at the Met with long operatic experience. The six new productions of 2016-17 were half and half. Trelinski, Audi, and Carsen in one wing; Sher, Lepage, and Zimmerman in the other. I did not see the Met version of the Tell. I thought it was pretty strong work on the Amsterdam video, but it may not have transferred. But I know which three of those I would rather see, if I were buying Package A or Package B.

            • Armerjacquino

              I really do think it’s true that, for whatever reason, McVicar hasn’t come close to his best work at the Met. I’ve not seen the Glyndebourne MEISTERSINGER but the CG NOZZE really is brilliant work, as is the Scottish Opera/ENO ROSENKAV. And the BOHEME that he did at Glyndebourne- bafflingly never released on DVD despite being shown on TV- was the best production of the opera I’ve ever seen.

            • Porgy Amor

              Thanks to this discussion, and some searching in followup, I’ve learned that his Glyndebourne Carmen with Von Otter is available. I knew it had been filmed, but I only have seen clips. Something for the to-do list in the slow months.

            • Yige Li

              Since you’ve echoed my observation that Sir David hasn’t come close to his best at MET, may I get one step further to point out that his most boring works here have all been MET-only productions? And among MET-only productions, his seemed still be the best in the class… That brings out the question that which are the better (or more acceptable) MET-only productions? And why you guys think MET-only productions more often being the least satisfied new productions? The short rehearsal time compared to co-productions “tested and adjusted” elsewhere? The possibly more conservative taste when MET commit productions just for themselves (i.e. maybe Peter Gelb told McVicar “hey, I want
              a Tosca production that can please those $$$$$patron wanting Zeffirelli back”?)? Or else?

            • Liz.S

              “Not that exciting” is right on re: these directors. At least they haven’t managed to get me too upset (or enraged :-) so far like those in Package B have.
              The only McVicar prod I enjoyed (but not listed in my “memorable” prod list) at the Met was Giullio Cesare, another fruit from Glyndebourne. Meistersinger -- I can’t say for sure but given the unique prep time at Glyndebourne, I have a feeling that he got to incorporate so much precious input from insightful musicians involved (Jurowski, Finley, Kraenzle)…

              Audi’s Tell was excellent. For me Tell was the best this season, one of those “everything is coming together so great” perfs with such wonderful artists on stage and in the pit.

              (Belated but… your article is so beautiful and moving -- so fitting to this masterpiece. Along with the memory of this run and Fleming’s last Marschalin, I will always remember reading this marvelous work of yours.)

            • fantasia2000

              First of all, let me echo everybody else to thank you for such a detailed and heartfelt review. I was in attendance last Saturday and I agreed with everything you said. It was a glorious afternoon.

              I must be the only one here who enjoy a lot of David McVicar’s work, even close to being a fan. I LOVE his fabulous “Giulio Cesare”, the wonderful “Les Troyens” and “Meistersinger” here in SF, the Pagliacci (the Cavelleria, otoh, was unfortunate). I quite like Il Trovatore (the Met), Andrea Chenier (in SF), and I don’t really mind the three Tudor operas at the Met. I really look forward to his new production of “Ariodante”, bringing back the same team that made Giulio Cesare so successful in Glyndebourne (Christie, Connolly, McVicar). (I’m aware that lightning VERY SELDOM strikes twice, so we’ll see).

              I personally didn’t like Audi’s production of Tell. I had big problem with direction of the “traffic” in there, aka too many people wandering aimlessly and it didn’t serve any purpose, as compared to Rosenkavalier, for example, where every moment was carefully choreographed. It’s a pity, as the singing (in Tell) was absolutely beautiful.

            • Liz.S

              I don’t think you’re the only fan of his, fantasia. Personally I’m quite neutral about him. He has hits & misses -- nothing wrong with that. It’s just he’s not someone very exiting and inspirational for me compared to some like Carsen or Herheim.

          • Yige Li

            Thanks for the statistics! I forgot Armida. Then I think she is qualified as “repeatedly engaged” ;-) What’s more puzzling about her is that whatever one thinks about others, they are hired around world (especially the case for McVicar). But for Mary Zimerman, if memory serves me right, all her opera productions have been for MET and MET-only. And with negative review every time, she has still been reengaged.

  • Batty Masetto

    Porgy, lovely review, as always. I agree heartily with pretty much every word, including that Garanca and Groissböck stole the show, and also about the coolness this very smart production leaves behind. And after several baffled comments by others on Parterre, thanks for pointing out why Ochs suddenly gets all fussed when Mariandel turns the tables. In this darker reading of the character (which is well supported by the text), he’s the kind of jerk who gets off on believing that “no” means “yes,” and might even need that in order to function. Groissböck’s manipulation of the mock-Bavarian dialect was also just choice. In fact everybody’s German was of very high quality.

    What’s not supported by the text, sadly, is the treatment of the Marschallin as a blithe cradle-robbing cougar (if that’s what it is; one is never entirely sure how far to trust Ms. Fleming’s acting).

    Several things are quite clear from the libretto: First, Octavian is already a rather accomplished young man by most any standard (as you note, both the production and the wonderful Garanca demonstrate this amply). He is not a child. Not even legally, even under today’s Austrian law, much less in Hofmannsthal’s time or the time of the original 18th century setting.

    Second, the Marschallin complies avant la lettre with Dan Savage’s “campsite rule” for relationships with much younger lovers: Leave them better off than when you found them. That is also very clear from the text. She mentions a couple of times, most notably in the trio, that she had vowed to love him in the right way – with an unselfish concern for his own well-being – so that she could even love him when he left her.

    She also says that she’d resolved she’d be quite composed about it, but she hadn’t expected to have to live up to her own resolution so soon,. That’s a pretty strong sign that losing him is not just a trivial hurt. She’s fairly emphatic throughout about not thinking any too highly of men to begin with, though of course she’s delicately unforthcoming about her past history. (She’s not a sexual saint.) She tells him not to be like them. Which has to mean that for her, he’s not that way – at least, not yet. He’s special for her – even in bed, as I think the Act I prelude also implies, if you want to hear it as a highly condensed portrayal of what happens just before the curtain rises. (I don’t buy the whole “premature ejaculation” theory: They both get a delicious release, which is characterized in both masculine and feminine terms.)

    One of the many details in both text and score that show how deeply hurt she is in the last act is her line “Hab’ jetzt einen montierten Kopf gegen die Männer – so ganz im Allgemeinen,” strongly emphasized by a nearly silent orchestra, and ending in a very knowing musical commentary. In Hofmannsthal’s subtle, Frenchified German, this means something like “I’m now rather seriously opposed (tête montée) against men – quite in general of course.”

    Unless she’s lying – which I can’t buy – she’s not going to make herself vulnerable again to a man anytime soon. So unlike so much of this really quite brilliant production, having her leave on the arm of the police sergeant, with the implication that he’s next in line, runs flagrantly against the text.

    As did Ms. Fleming’s cheerful demeanor throughout the last scene. But I’ve never seen her in any role convey the profoundly complex emotions required at that moment, and don’t know if they were ever within her range as an actor.

    What was definitely within her range though was the singing, better than I’ve heard from her in ages, and the slow tempo for the start of the absolutely beautiful trio was almost insanely daring. She also held that last note, if not for the exact duration Strauss asks for – I was in no position to consult a score – at least in the right neighborhood, or maybe longer. The Marschallin gets the long last word in that trio. And Renee abundantly earned the loud ovations at the curtain calls.

    • Rowna Sutin

      Bravo Batty! An excellent campanion to the review :)

  • Cicciabella

    Porgy, what have you done to me? This is the first thing I read this morning and my eyes are misty. What a beautiful, unsentimental but touching review to Ms Fleming, Der Rosenkavalier, HD audiences and opera in general! Now I have to go see this.

  • CKurwenal

    Great piece, Porgy. I’m even sadder than I was before that we couldn’t have had Garanca in this production in London!

    • Bill

      To my knowledge, Garanca only sang Octavian in
      Vienna (20 performances over a period of years), in
      Berlin and now at the Met -- correct me if I am wrong.
      There was a time when she was contracted to sing the Komponist in Vienna, London and at the Met but she
      dropped the idea of doing the role as she did not find it
      suitable for her for some reason -- all 3 houses had to scramble to find substitutes (Sophie Koch, for example) but these were not last minute cancellations. I think Garanca would have made a wonderful Komponist, even as a mezzo, as she had had the high notes which strangulate some Mezzos doing the soprano role.

      • PCally

        Garanca said in an interview that it wasn’t a question of a couple of high notes. The role is fundamentally a soprano role and the overall tessitura would have tired her out. Octavian is longer and goes quite high at some points but it’s much better paced and it doesn’t sit quite as high for quite as long. as the composer, which is why IMO there are more successful mezzo Octavians than Composers. .

        • southerndoc1

          Did von Stade ever sing the Composer?

          • PCally

            I don’t believe she ever did. I think it might have been a shade high and heavy for her but personally I think von Stade is one of the finest Octavian’s ever, weirdly unmentioned when people look back on Octavians of the past. On the otherwise mediocre studio recording she made she sings it more accurately than just about anyone and completely without effort. And the timbre is just perfect.

            • Daniel Swick

              I live her as Octavian because the voice is comfortable up high and she has really impressive control…she can widdle the tone down to a glowy pianissimo and let it float forever. Welting was a fine singer but her Sophie isn’t the best. The tone is bright and brittle…almost a harkening back to an older style Sophie and I don’t love it.

          • You can find an interview online where she mentions a run in Hamburg that convinced her it didn’t suit her voice.

            • southerndoc1


            • Roseducor

              I heard one of those performances. I love von Stade, but as the composer she was stressed at the top of the range.

      • CKurwenal

        Quite so -- I think if any mezzo could sing Komponist, Garanca could have, but I still think it was the right decision. What was odd about that cancellation was that apparently she only agreed to sing Dorabella for the ROH on the condition they gave her the Komponist as well. In the end we got the late Kirstine Jepson at the ROH, who was wonderful.

        • Christian Ocier

          Von Otter gave us a lovely mezzo Komponist in the Sinopoli recording, and she also has a splendid Octavian in the Haitink studio recording and the live performances with Carlos Kleiber from Munich. Wonderful portrayal and excellent characterization, perhaps as good as Irmgard Seefried and Julia Varady.

          • ines

            Von Otter is a superb singer and artist

            • Christian Ocier

              Von Otter’s instrument has a lighter color than the Christa Ludwig/Troyanos variety of singer, but what she lacks in vocal opulence she more than makes up for in her ability to tint a phrase and to invest such artistry and depth into everything she performs. A case in point: I’ve always loved Christa Ludwig and Janet Baker’s exemplary singing in the even songs of Das Lied von der Erde. However, when I heard Abbado conduct the Berlin Philharmonic with Kaufmann and von Otter during the centenary of Mahler’s death, I switched my allegiances to von Otter’s contemplative, soulful interpretation. Every phrase in that performance is invested with such detail and beauty that one cannot help but think that she gets to the heart of the piece more deeply than her richer voiced colleagues. Love her work, wish she could be contracted by the Met to sing Geschwitz should they decide to revive the Kentridge Lulu.

            • Christian Ocier

              Must add to that cast: Barbara Hannigan as Lulu, Pavol Breslik as the painter and other roles of that singer, Michael Volle as Dr Schon, Andreas Schager or Brandon Jovanovich as Alwa, get Grundheber back as Schilgolch. Maybe Daniel Harding as conductor?

            • Kenneth Conway

              Yes, yes, yes to all of the above.

            • Porgy Amor

              I read an interview with Volle from February of this year and he said that after having done five productions, he will no longer sing Doctor Schön. He said it was very hard work for him. However, he said the title role of Wozzeck is something he would sing every day if he could.

            • PCally

              A shame, it’s one of his best roles IMO. He’s the standout on the ROH DVD and that has an overall pretty excellent cast IMO.

            • Porgy Amor

              I agree. He and Vogt are the best father/son Schön team I’ve seen. It always seems one or the other of those roles is inadequately filled either vocally or dramatically (usually Alwa), or else they seem wrong way ’round age-wise, or something. There is not much about that Lulu I do not like. I don’t know if anyone is going to meet the Mazura standard for me in Schön (talk about someone seeming born to play something), but Volle comes closer than anyone else I’ve seen.

            • Christian Ocier

              Could not agree more about that ROH production--Pappano (or the ROH administration) appears to have this uncanny ability to bring together dream casts on recording and on the stage nowadays that seldom happens at the Met.

              Straying off topic at the moment: I’d like to assemble my dream cast for Frau Ohne Schatten should it be cast at the Met today.

              Amme: Tanja Ariane Baumgartner (the best of the best in my opinion. Her recording with Weigle from Frankfurt is so musical and histrionic that one momentarily forgets the contributions of Amme’s like Mignon Dunn and Hanna Schwarz)
              Kaiser: Stephen Gould
              Kaiserin: Tamara Wilson/Adrienne Pieczonka/Rachel Willis Sorensen
              Barak: Groissbock or Michael Volle
              Mrs. Barak: Nina Stemme
              Falke: Kathleen Kim
              Geisterbote: Stephen Milling
              Conductor: Kirill Petrenko?/ Pappano?/ Gatti? Rattle? Not really sure who can plumb into the drama while bringing out the opulent riches of Strauss’s score.

            • PCally

              Thielemann? Both his met and Salzburg performances are extraordinary, the former one of the greatest conducted performances of anything I’ve ever heard.

            • Rowna Sutin

              Where is Christine Goerke on this list? I heard her Mrs. Barak at the Met -- unbelievably great.

            • Christian Ocier

              Yes! Christine Goerke should be added to the list as well.

              And yes to Thielemann’s Salzburg Frau.

            • PCally

              I like watching Mazura on the video (he’s also a tremendously acted Gunther)but his actual sound is a bit to dry and threadbare to my ears. Volle doesn’t have the most beautiful sound but it sounds a bit fuller and with more impact. While he’s not in the same league dramatically (though I think he’s a much better actor then given credit for) I thought Reuter sang the role beautifully.

            • Porgy Amor

              That’s fair enough, re: Mazura’s sound. It may never have been ample or beautiful. But what he did with that character, both with Chéreau and with Dexter. He was loathsome; he was pitiable; he could carry himself as if accustomed to power and then seem absolutely powerless. He was a self-loathing predator from the ground up. And his Jack the Ripper, both times, was blood-curdling. I could watch a lifetime of Commendatores and Wolf’s Glen scenes and all the other things in opera that directors try to make “scary” and it wouldn’t better that look of his in the Dexter (anyone who’s seen it will probably know the one I mean). That is the stuff of nightmares. In the Chéreau, he achieves such eerie physical expression just seen in silhouette, slowing climbing those steps into the moonlit night.

              Of course, he had two very great productions, but he contributed much to their greatness. Volle just is not as searing to me, although he is the best I have heard/seen in the role since. What I remember most of his performance is the bit with Eichneholz licking the blood from his fingers after the Painter’s suicide. The revulsion, desire, and need mingled together in his reaction.

            • Liz.S

              Why Harding? (just curious…)
              I don’t think he’s stepped his foot in NYC for like 5, 6 yrs? About time we welcome him back for anything! :-)

            • Christian Ocier

              Harding to me brings to his artistry more elements of what makes a conductor great compared to many of his peers and superiors. For instance, he has a sense of idiom that allows him to draw fantastic interpretations from scores as disparate as Brahms, Mozart, Mahler, Strauss, and Berg. At this stage of his career, he has proven himself to be a superior opera conductor than either Abbado or Rattle when they were his age. His orchestral readings of pieces like the Mahler 6 (I don’t think I have heard a richer or more compelling Andante since the Karajan recording from Berlin) and the Bartok violin concertos stand out to me as definitive (choice of tempi, orchestral texture, great sense of balance between the three main orchestral sections, ability to highlight themes without losing the line). He also is one of the supreme interpreters of the 20th century canon today. I’d love to hear his Berg in the theater one day.

            • Liz.S

              I’m glad I didn’t shy away from asking -- good to meet another admirer of his.
              I have a fond memory of Harding’s Mahler 6 -- in 2014 I was watching it live on Berlin Phil DCH. I originally planned to sit down for K.Petrenko who ended up withdrawing (it was before the appointment and I speculated that concert was his final “trial” run.)
              Abbado’s Mahler esp. in later years was out of this world, so sublime. It was the first time in a while I was hearing the equal level of intensity from Berlin Phil’s playing that day. That perf made me felt like… I couldn’t help thinking that the players might be feeling the presence of his spirit there at Philharmonie. For me it was a real requiem for Abbado, and at the same time a reassurance of artistry of Harding’s, whom Abbado used to call “my little genious.”

              I too appreciate conductors who inspire us with their insightful and unique readings, although I hesitate to say who’s the best. A friend of mine once described Harding “completely decomposes the work and then
              totally reconstructs it” but perhaps he sort of settled down just a tiny bit in recent years, no?

              There’s Kentridge’s Wozzeck (Jurowski, Goerne et al.) coming up this summer in Salzburg, supposedly at the Met also in 2019-20. It would be interesting if we get to have conductors like him or Jurowski, KP, Jordan (although prob unlikely…)

              You may already have seen it but this is for you --

            • Christian Ocier

              Hi Liz, thank you for sharing the link! I have a recording of the Mahler in this performance from the BR Klassik label, but of course it’s more interesting to see him interacting with his musicians in a video.

              Abbado certainly brought a spirituality and the sense of the otherworldly to his late career Mahler readings from Berlin and Lucerne. While there were certain interpretations that worked better during the earlier part of his career (the 2nd and the 4th immediately come to mind), I find that his late Mahler readings acquired a complexity that somewhat eluded him when he started conducting Mahler. That Das Lied from 2011 probably represents the culmination of everything he experienced as a man and a musician, and how fortunate we are to have recorded evidence of its performance.

              Harding certainly has recalibrated his approach to music in the last decade or so. I remember listening to his early work--the Aix Don Giovanni, etc., and found his approach to be a little bit on the precious and cerebral side. However, he also brought a visceral excitement to his conducting, and he had a sense of line, even if that line was on the tranparent and brisk side. I find that he has achieved a greater sense of idiom in recent years--his romantic composer work sounds lush, and his recent Brahms recordings have acquired a depth that was lacking during those early accounts with Virgin/EMI.

              Maybe one is being too myopic and biased even when calling someone like Harding the “best,” but the man is just so innovative and flexible that one couldn’t help but shower him with these well deserved accolades.

            • PCally

              I just saw her sing the role in Hamburg (with Hannigan, who was surprisingly vocally iffy up until the third act). Was afraid that things might have declined a bit since she sang it at the met (fantastically btw) but she was excellent. I think the Countess is a role that has never seemed to have been lacking in illustrious interpreters. I think Larmore is PHENOMENAL on the ROH dvd, the best thing I’ve heard from her outside of her work with Jacobs from the 1990s. Graham was also terrific and the prospect of Denoke next season is also super exciting.

            • Christian Ocier

              I’m not surprised that she still has a remarkable command over her vocal resources. While her voice has lost some of the richness (I find that she sounds more like a soprano nowadays!!!) that we heard in her early music recordings and up to the Strauss/recital recordings of the mid-2000s, she has been very conservative about picking roles and engagements at this stage of her career. If I am not mistaken, she will be singing the Kindertotenlieder at Carnegie Hall in a few weeks--for someone who just turned 62, it is amazing that she can still bring so much artistry and beauty to these incredibly beautiful songs. Would love to hear von Otter in roles like Begbick and similar character roles.

            • PCally

              She has sung Begbick (at ROH), apparently not all that successfully. though it’s hard to gauge based on reviews whether or not it was completely her fault or the production’s and translation’s. Tbh I kind of doubt she has a great deal of major character roles available to her. It’s not at all a dramatic voice and like many lyric voices, it’s in the lower middle area that her voice (to my ears) shows the most audible signs of deterioration. She’s singings the old prioress next season and recently began singing Marcellina (she’s also doing an operatic adaptation of Autuman sonata for finland).

            • Christian Ocier

              Agreed. Even in the last five years, I had the sense that we’d likely see her in more lieder recitals than operatic concerts. The voice has always been lighter, and even during her prime, she sounded more to me like a short soprano than a true mezzo. But what artistry she brings to her singing!

            • Rick

              Ms von Otter is also amazing in the breadth of repertoire she has managed to sing (and, in my view, generally in a wonderful and musical manner), from Monteverdi through Handel and Back to Mozart -- and then Berlioz, Bizet, the lieder repertoire (both French, German and Scandinavian), a few Wagner parts, Stravinsky etc.
              And she has done what I consider one of the most successful cross-over albums, For the Stars with Elvis Costello. Now, if I could somehow manage to get my hands on that album on vinyl, I would make my husband (and, therefore, myself) very happy and satisfied. Alas….

            • Porgy Amor

              And she has done what I consider one of the most successful cross-over albums, For the Stars

              That is really good. Not everything on it works equally well (torch is out of her comfort zone, e.g., “Shamed Into Love”), but more than half of it is exquisite. She and Costello had very different ideas about the production. He thought it should be very spare, and she had envisioned something more lush and elaborate. I am glad she trusted him.

              Here is a recent pendant of sorts, a recording of Costello’s beautiful song “The Birds Will Still Be Singing” with Brooklyn Rider.


            • Christian Ocier

              Junger Marianne Leizmetzerin has Rattle’s 2009 Gotterdammerung archived here. In this performance von Otter sings Waltraute--uncommon entry for her given her rep, but fascinatingly thought out and sung. It lacks volume compared to Dalayman’s more “mezzo” tinged soprano, but I find her convincing in this scene. Not a Waltraute for the ages, but still very powerful.

            • Rick

              About the spare vs. lush, I seem to remember from the cover notes that Ms von Otter did add some sounds to one of the songs (an organ or some such thing) which Mr Costello ended up accepting.

            • Porgy Amor

              Yes. There was a certain amount of give and take. She was having a hard time getting her mind around the idea of singing Tom Waits songs. I’m glad Costello pushed a couple through, because “Take It With Me’ is one of my favorite tracks on it.

            • Rick

              I find the mash up of Broken Bicycles and ?? very catchy and well done -- but there are many gems. Now, if I could find it on vinyl…..

            • CKurwenal

              I heard the Begbick live -- I found her thoroughly convincing in the role. It’s not a piece I know (or plan on hearing again…) so I was relatively free of preconceptions of what a Begbick should sound like, beyond a dim awareness that it is often a clapped out Isolde (Jones/Modl/Varnay/Schnaut). Perhaps if you’ve listened to lots of those you’d have found Von Otter inadequate or miscast. But in terms of singing what was on the page and being easily audible, getting the words across and portraying a convincing character, she certainly managed that.
              Incidentally I completely disagree with the comment from Christian that she sounded more like a short soprano -- I think Von Otter is as bona fide as mezzos come.

      • spiderman

        Garanca sang Octavian at least in Paris (2006 I think) and in Dresden (2013) as well.

  • Donna Annina

    I had to miss this because I was had a writing deadline but il mio sposo who did attend hasn’t stopped raving about it. Your review is an eloquent, heartfelt tribute to the opera itself, experiencing it and to these once-in-a-lifetime performances. I can’t wait to watch it on Met Player.
    As to the three directors Carsen can replace, I agree wholeheartedly about Sher. Musicals he can do but when it comes to opera, he disconnects. Or as Meredith Willson wrote, he doesn’t know the territory.

  • aulus agerius

    I thought Helene Schneiderman was very good as Annina, particularly in her interactions with Ochs at the end of Act II. Really laugh out loud funny! I assume this was largely Carsen, but still…..
    Everyone really acted so well, for the cameras I guess. When Octavian and Sophie start up about attar of roses and look into each others eyes I thought I was about to lose it to open sobs in a theater which has happened since Barbara Frittoli in Suor Angelica HD.

    • All Ears

      She’s a very funny lady, an absolute hoot. And well versed in the role. She don’t need no Carsen.