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Strauss: Der Rosenkavalier / Litton, Carby, Barker, Hemm [blu-ray]

Strauss / Barker / Opera Australia Chorus
Release Date: 03/26/2013 
Label:  Opera Australia   Catalog #: 56027  
Composer:  Richard Strauss
Performer:  Edmond ChooWarwick FyfeManfred HemmHenry Choo,   ... 
Conductor:  Andrew Litton
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Opera Australia OrchestraOpera Australia Chorus
Number of Discs: 1 
In Stock: Usually ships in 24 hours.  
Blu-ray Video:  $39.99
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

This Blu-ray Disc is only playable on Blu-ray Disc players and not compatible with standard DVD players.

Also available on standard DVD

R. STRAUSS Der Rosenkavalier Andrew Litton, cond; Cheryl Barker ( Marschellin ); Catherine Carby ( Octavian ); Emma Pearson ( Sophie ); Manfred Hemm ( Baron Ochs
Read more ); Henry Choo ( Italian Singer ); Warwick Fyfe ( Faninal ); Australian Op & Ballet O, Ch, & Children’s Ch OPERA AUSTRALIA 56027 (Blu-ray: 200:00) Live: Sydney 2010

Der Rosenkavalier , Richard Strauss’s most popular opera, has all the makings of a quite brilliant little romantic comedy of manners, but it is allowed to sprawl, to go on far too long. It lacked a good editor at the time, both librettist Hugo von Hofmannsthal and composer Strauss seem to have been much too taken with the sound of their own work to really give much heed to the effect on the audience. Acts II and III in particular are extended beyond their dramatic limits while the two creators rub our noses in the obvious. Much of the work has touches of mastery but at times it just has us checking our watches. In addition, amid all the hoopla over the lush Strauss orchestral score, it is often overlooked that his writing for voice here is quite average. The presentation of the rose is a nice scene, but not one particularly built around the singing. It isn’t until act III that we get the sublime trio for the three female voices and the quite nice little duet for the two young lovers that follows. Much of the remainder is just note-spinning, story-telling through orchestra-accompanied recitative, sitcom Wagner.

Don’t get me wrong, this frustratingly flawed opera can still be quite entertaining, especially when given a first-class traditional visual presentation such as supplied here by Opera Australia in acts I and II. This video has previously been reviewed in Fanfare 36:3 in its DVD format by Robert Markow. In his review Markow comments that the act III set looks more like the interior of a spacious barn than an intimate tavern, and I agree. It looks a bit like the artistic team finished the first two acts then took the rest of the week off. Instead of a cozy little room for a trysting place, the Baron and the lady’s maid get a bare, unfurnished room in a warehouse, which the busy minions then proceed to fill up with trappings, dining table, bed, candle-lit chandelier. When they are finished it looks like a tarted-up room in a warehouse. The singing, and particularly the acting, is strong enough to overcome such minor deficiencies and makes this quite an enjoyable set. The presence of the Marschallin hovers over the entire opera, but it is actually a relatively short role. Here, soprano Cheryl Barker looks quite compelling as the reluctantly aging noble lady of the house and mistress of the bedroom. Barker’s voice sometimes seems a bit thin and strained on top but dramatically she fits the role like a glove. The heavy lifting, or in this case singing, is actually provided by the Octavian and the Baron (who often has parts snipped in other productions). On this set both roles are quite well performed. Octavian is played as youthful and a bit petulant by boyish-looking Catherine Carby, and the Ochs of Manfred Hemm is particularly well sung and for a nice change, not over-acted. Octavian’s mugging while dressed as the lady’s maid in act I is a bit over the top. Sophie, as played by Emma Pearson, adds the necessary romantic charm and girlish innocence to the piece and she sings quite well in addition. The Australian Opera and Ballet Orchestra, here under noted conductor Andrew Litton, gives us a rich sounding and masterly rendition of the true star of this opera, Strauss’s score. It is all caught in breathtaking high definition video and sound on the Blu-ray disc. If the orchestra occasionally overwhelms the singers, the fault lies more with Strauss than the sound engineers.

Competition between Der Rosenkavalier sets on video is fierce. Among the recorded Marschallins are Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, Renée Fleming, Anne Schwanwilms, and Kiri Te Kanawa, some of the finest Straussians to ever flutter an imperious gesture. But we are in the early stages of another sea-change in video media, switching from DVD to the much superior picture and sound quality available on Blu-ray disc, and in that smaller field, this Opera Australia production is in the top rank. The very best singing may be elsewhere, but Der Rosenkavalier has never particularly been a singer’s opera, and this Opera Australia issue is quite enjoyable to watch. Recommended.

FANFARE: Bill White


Richard Strauss

Der Rosenkavalier, the most successful opera of Strauss and von Hofmannsthal’s partnership, is a story of love, lust and human frailty. The story is not complicated but it soars and dips on Strauss’ music with Hofmannsthal’s expressive libretto. With Barker in the role of the Marschallin, who can fail to be moved by her poignant portrayal of facing the final loss of youth and her young lover, Count Octavian (Carby), is a young man who has his life to enjoy with no thought of anything but pleasure and the Marschallin’s company – until he meets the beautiful and innocent Sophie von Faninal (Pearson). The boorish Baron Ochs auf Lerchenau is superbly exposed by Hemm, his Viennese accent lending authenticity. Led by conductor Litton and staged by Oberle.

Count Octavian Rofrano – Catherine Carby
The Feldmarschellin – Cheryl Barker
Struhan / Landlord – Graeme Macfarlane
Baron Ochs auf Lerchenau – Manfred Hemm
3 noble orphans – Emma Castelli, Jodie McGuren, Margaret Plummer
Milliner – Chloris Bath
Animal Seller – Dean Bassett
Attorney / Police Officer – Stephen Bennett
Valzacchi – Andrew Brunsdon
Annina – Jacqueline Dark
Italian Singer – Henry Choo
Herr von Faninal – Warwick Fyfe
Sophie van Faninal – Emma Pearson
Marianne Leitmetzerin – Teresa La Rocca
Faninal’s major-domo – Edmond Choo
Footmen – Jin Tea Kim, James Roser, Gregory Brown, Sam Roberts-Smith

Opera Australia Children’s Chorus
Opera Australia Chorus
Australian Opera and Ballet Orchestra
Andrew Litton, conductor

Brian FitzGerald, original director
Carl Friedrich Oberle, set and costume designer
Nigel Levings, lighting designer
Recorded live from the Sydney Opera House, 13 and 19 October 2010

- Cast gallery

Picture format: 1080i Full-HD
Sound format: LPCM 2.0 / DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
Region code: 0 (worldwide)
Subtitles: English, French, German, Spanish, Italian
Running time: 200 mins
No. of Discs: 1 (blu-ray)

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Works on This Recording

Der Rosenkavalier, Op. 59 by Richard Strauss
Performer:  Edmond Choo (Tenor), Warwick Fyfe (Baritone), Manfred Hemm (Bass),
Henry Choo (Tenor), Jacqueline Dark (Mezzo Soprano), Andrew Brunsdon (Tenor),
Catherine Carby (Mezzo Soprano), Graeme Macfarlane (Tenor), Cheryl Barker (Soprano)
Conductor:  Andrew Litton
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Opera Australia Orchestra,  Opera Australia Chorus
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1909-1910; Germany 

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