Review — Der Rosenkavalier, Royal Opera, December 2009Posted on 8 December 2009
Wonderful period sets and costumes for this 1984 production by John Schlesinger, revived by Andrew Sinclair, are the background for an enchanting evening. With Russian conductor Kirill Petrenko giving Strauss’s music more colour than I ever remember hearing, this was a musical feast. The star of the show for me was Lucy Crowe as Sophie, the girl whose wealthy father wants to marry her off to the nobility in the form of the boorish Baron Ochs. He was very well sung by Peter Rose, who gave him just the right nuances, without going over the top. As the knight who rescues Sophie from this appalling mismatch we had Sophie Koch as a strong-voiced Octavian, but I would have preferred more masculinity in her portrayal. She compared unfavourably in this respect to Daniela Sindram, whom I saw doing the same part in Berlin earlier this year, but the presentation of the silver rose and the duet with Sophie in Act II was beautifully done. The Italian intriguers, Annina and Valzacchi, fed up with getting no payment from Ochs, turn to assist Octavian in taking him down a peg or two, and were very well played by Leah-Marian Jones and Graham Clark. In this production we see Octavian actually writing the letter to Ochs at the rear of the stage. This was all very well done, and I thought Act II came over brilliantly, helped of course by the simply wonderful set.
The audience seemed enthusiastic about Finnish soprano Soile Isokoski as the Marschallin, but the friends I know who liked her were seeing this opera for the first time. Having seen far better Marschallins, such as Anne Schwanewilms in Chicago in February 2006, I’m afraid I was underwhelmed. I found her voice too harsh in Act I and she lacked finesse and flirtatiousness with Octavian, though she certainly sang well in the trio at the end of Act III. Unfortunately, Lucy Crowe who had sung so well in the last two acts, seemed to tire right at the very end and lost her pitch, but this was the first night. The other disappointment was Thomas Allen as Faninal, Sophie’s wealthy father, who was surprisingly lacking in stage presence and vocal gravitas. But Wookyung Kim as the tenor in Act I sang like a god.
Altogether this was a success, and it may be that some of the weaker points will be corrected in later performances. Watch this space two weeks hence.