Erotic horns, sensuous strings


Some people got a kick out of watching loud boats race in circles this past weekend; they got jonesed when fighter jets did noisy strafing runs over Lake Washington. For me, that visceral thrill came with the maestro's downbeat and the opening arpeggios of Strauss's Rosenkavalier.

06 Rosenkavalier wl 109.jpg Ronald at Rosenkavalier.jpg.JPG
Sophie falls for the Rosenkavalier. Seattle Opera photo © Rosarii Lynch. A toast!

Israeli conductor Asher Fisch coaxes more sound from the pit at McCaw Hall than the rooster-tailed drivers at Stan Sayres could ever imagine: a lush, erotic cascade of horns intertwined with strings, brass masculine calls and sinuous feminine responses that don't let up all evening. It's music of heart-stopping intensity and it underscores a great moment of theater: Octavian's presentation of a symbolic silver rose to the young Sophie at the beginning of Act II, the stage brilliant with strobe lights and resplendent satin.

Sadly, the rest of the show disappoints. The wise and noble Marschallin, Carol Vaness, seems overwhelmed by the orchestra and by the unfamiliar language, German, of the libretto. Alice Coote makes a convincing enough Octavian; it's a pants role (Strauss loved writing for sopranos) that would do better, dramatically, with a strapping tenor. As Sophie's boorish fiancé Baron Ochs;, bass Peter Rose founders on the reefs of farce. Only Julianne Gearhart--originally hired as an understudy--escapes unscathed; her sweet Sophie eventually wins everyone's heart.

What went wrong? It's a recycled production to begin with; sets and costumes dusted off from Seattle Opera's 1997 staging, which featured an incomprehensibly gloomy vision of what constitutes elegant Viennese drawing rooms. Worse, the decision to bring back the original stage director, Dieter Kaegi, whose idea of wit makes the Three Stooges look sophisticated. (There's literally a guy whose head pops up through a hollow tree.) The tension between the idealistic sentiments of youth (Octavian and Sophie) and the mature wisdom of the Marschallin is fatally undercut by the awkward staging and by supratitles, borrowed from San Francisco Opera that lack Jonathan Dean's sensitivity and humor.

But that doesn't mean you shouldn't go. By all means, open your ears and listen to the glorious music. Open your eyes and read the convoluted supratitles. And, except for that one dazzling moment at the top of Act II, just ignore everything happening onstage.

Der Rosenkavalier, through August 26 at Seattle Opera. 206-789-7676


Well my dear man, dapper you are in this divine picture - you and your champagne! Well done lad!

O.K. Ron, what did you really think of the opera? We're going on the 20th. Maybe someone will put them wise, as you so lucidly point out. It happens to be S's favorite; all we can do is hope for the best.

I will continue to visit enjoyed the reading thanks

Great picture, and it reminds me of a question I've been wondering about: What is the difference between "old-fashioned French restaurants" and "modern French restaurants." Out here on the Peninsula there is Cest Si Bon which is referred to as old-fashioned compared to some place in Berkeley, name forgotten, that is apparently "modern."

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This page contains a single entry by Cornichon published on August 7, 2006 8:25 AM.

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