Strauss: Der Rosenkavalier / Litton, Carby, Barker, Hemm, Pearson

Release Date: 8/28/2012
Catalog Number: OPOZ56028CD
Composer: Richard Strauss
Conductor: Andrew Litton
Number of Discs: 3

Physical Format:

In Stock
Notes and Editorial Reviews

STRAUSS Der Rosenkavalier Andrew Litton, cond; Cheryl Barker ( The Marschallin ); Catherine Carby ( Octavian ); Emma Pearson ( Sophie ); Manfred Hemm ( Baron Ochs ); Australian Opera & Ballet O OPERA AUSTRALIA OPOZ56028 (3 CDs: 194:06) Live: Sydney 10/13 & 19/2010

STRAUSS Der Rosenkavalier Andrew Litton, cond; Cheryl Barker ( The Marschallin ); Catherine Carby ( Octavian ); Emma Pearson ( Sophie ); Manfred Hemm ( Baron Ochs ); Australian Opera & Ballet O OPERA AUSTRALIA 56026 (DVD: 199:37) Live: Sydney 10/13 & 19/2010

Opera Australia has released its production of Der Rosenkavalier on its own label simultaneously on CD and DVD. As the DVD costs only a couple of dollars more than the CD ($30 vs. $28 on, there doesn’t seem much point to investing in the CD unless you are simply averse to watching opera (such people exist). Der Rosenkavalier has been well served on video. There are three outstanding accounts (Karajan/Salzburg/Hartmann, Levine/Met/Merrill, Kleiber/Vienna/Schenk), all featuring star casts, great orchestras, stylishly sensitive conductors, and sumptuous sets and costumes. Then there are at least eight others that I know of, most with considerable merits but not in the class of the aforementioned three. It is hardly accidental that for this most Viennese of operas, the Vienna Philharmonic or its alias, the Vienna State Opera Orchestra, plays in no fewer than four of these productions.

So where does the latest entry in the Rosenkavalier sweepstakes fit in? If judging were on the basis of the orchestra alone, then near the top. The prelude is a bit ragged, but things soon settle down and thereafter Andrew Litton draws consistently elegant, finely wrought and stylish playing from his musicians. He manages to capture all the splendor and joy, irritation, and pettiness as required without ever letting the pace slacken. He has a good feel for the lilt of the Viennese waltz and a knack for delineating transparent textures, a big plus in this enormously busy score. (One might try listening to it sometime without the voices to fully grasp the wealth of its orchestral detail.) Litton also knows how to build climaxes slowly and steadily. The buildup to Octavian’s entrance in act II is thrilling, and never have I heard the final trio more perfectly paced. Litton creates the illusion that listeners are slowly riding the crest of a wave to its ultimate height before it dissolves into blissful nothingness.

Among the principals, only the Marschallin can be faulted. Cheryl Barker seems not quite comfortable in the role, pushing too many of her lines and in tremulous voice. She also misses much of the subtlety, particularly in the monologue at the end of act I. Catherine Carby is a noble Octavian, with a small, almost boyish voice but well focused, full of nuance, and rich in overtones. Emma Pearson’s Sophie is just a bit rough at the beginning, but once she warms up her voice is truly heavenly, with spot-on intonation. But don’t underestimate this girl. When she loses control of her pent-up emotions she is a formidable opponent! Manfred Hemm’s Ochs is not the pompous oaf he is often made out to be, yet the character is finely drawn and Hemm brings much carefully considered detail to the role. He is a fine actor to boot, and in case you were wondering, he delivers a good solid low E.

Supporting roles are all well handled, with Warwick Fyfe’s Faninal a standout. Henry Choo is an acceptable Italian singer, Andrew Brunsdon (Valzacchi) and Jacqueline Dark (Annina) highly entertaining schemers.

The DVD is worth having above all for the stage direction of Brian FitzGerald (rehearsed for this performance by Roger Press), who moves his players about fluidly and keeps the eye engaged without overtaxing it. There are innumerable fine touches, such as the knowing smirk from the page boy as he leaves the chocolate in act I, Och’s obvious impatience with the singing of the Italian tenor, or the meaningful glances between Octavian and Sophie in act II. Carl Oberle’s sets are realistic and conventional in concept, but the one for act III looks more like the interior of a spacious barn than of an intimate tavern. There are some visual miscalculations, like the Marschallin waking up with mussed hair but already wearing lipstick. Sophie is obviously having a bad hair day from hell. Nor does her gown do her any credit—she looks more like a maid than a bride-to-be. Generally speaking, though, if you’re looking for a second or third Rosenkavalier DVD for your collection, this one will do nicely.

The production was first performed at the New Theatre in Cardiff in 1990 and brought to Sydney the following year. There is no libretto, but the booklets include a useful synopsis and thoughtful essay by Robert Gibson. Subtitles are in five languages and there are about 20 entry points per act on both CD and DVD.

FANFARE: Robert Markow
Works on This Recording
1. Der Rosenkavalier, Op. 59 by Richard Strauss
Performer: Warwick Fyfe (Baritone), Cheryl Barker (Soprano), Edmond Choo (Tenor), Manfred Hemm (Bass), Henry Choo (Tenor), Graeme Macfarlane (Tenor), Andrew Brunsdon (Tenor), Catherine Carby (Mezzo Soprano), Jacqueline Dark (Mezzo Soprano)
Conductor: Andrew Litton
Period: Romantic
Written: 1909-1910 ; Germany
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