Der Rosenkavalier, BBC Proms, Albert Hall, RAH, July 2014Posted on 23 July 2014
After all that kerfuffle about Octavian at the opening night of Glyndebourne’s new Rosenkavalier it was a pleasure to see this concert performance and confirm two things. Glyndebourne was absolutely right to choose Tara Erraught for the role, and while I blamed director Richard Jones for the ill-fitting clothing on opening night (see my review) it seems to have been altered for this Proms performance, and she looked good, notably in the opening scene with the Marschallin.
Bringing an opera from the relative intimacy of Glyndebourne to London’s Royal Albert Hall is a tough call, but among the principals it was Tara Erraught who ably filled the far larger space. Her robust presence and vocal strength gave this trouser role just the edge it needed, and her cheeky accent when she cross-dressed as Mariandel was a hoot. Added to these forceful and witty moments she exhibited real emotion, particularly towards the end of Act I after the Marschallin has foreseen the eventual end of their relationship.
As Sophie, Louise Alder took over at short notice and after an understandably nervous start gave a lovely performance of this ingénue who quickly learns to assert herself against the abusive treatment of Baron Ochs, and his servant Leopold who repeatedly lifted her up onto a table. This was all part of the Glyndebourne staging, partly recreated here by Sarah Fahie with performers and a few props behind the main body of the orchestra. As Ochs, Franz Hawlata also took over at short notice, and as the evening progressed he brought the role into focus with fine vocal command and an excellent stage portrayal. The rest of the cast was the same as at Glyndebourne, headed by Kate Royal as a lovely Marschallin. In more minor roles Helene Schneiderman as Annina came over very strongly — more so than at Glyndebourne — and I loved her interaction with Ochs at the end of Act II. The other person who really filled the vast space was Andrej Dunaev as the Italian tenor — he was terrific.
In terms of staging I could have done without the Marschallin’s overgrown little servant boy sniffing her clothing, and the mouth-to-mouth kissing of Octavian and Sophie at their first meeting. These egregious examples of Richard Jones’s production could have been left behind, but the musical performance was exceptional. The woman next to me asked why she had never heard of this wonderful conductor, who was of course Glyndebourne’s excellent new music director Robin Ticciati carrying the baton for the LPO.
This is one of the advantages of bringing a well-honed opera performance to the Proms (which the BBC also did last year with Barenboim and the orchestra of the Berliner Staatsoper). Another is the placing of off-stage musicians in the Albert Hall, and it was a thrilling experience to hear an off-stage band playing from the heights of the Gallery for the Act III seduction scene. Such things, including the clever lighting effects, are lost on a radio audience, but thank goodness for the live broadcast because this was a sell-out.