Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
|Strauss - Der Rosenkavalier|
Actors: Adrianne Pieczonka, Angelika Kirchschlager, Miah Persson, Franz Hawlata, Franz Grundheber
Director: Robert Carsen
Genres: Music Video & Concerts, Musicals & Performing Arts
A fascinating updated production--very well performed
C. Harbison | Montague, MA United States | 11/06/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Although I wouldn't recommend this as a first DVD of this great opera, it would certainly be an important second. Robert Carsen's opera stagings (Tales of Hoffmann, Manon Lescaut, La Traviata, Mefistofele, Rusalka, Capriccio) are often controversial and always thoughtful, shedding new light on old warhorses. This is no exception, with emphasis on pre-WWI Viennese decadence, ending in a destructive final moment that is at first shocking and then seems inevitable (lots of frontal nudity in the last act as well). Bychkov's conducting is novel, aggressive, and moving. The singers are all in good voice and are very effective actors as well. The combination of staging, conducting, singing, and acting makes even the most devoted fan of this opera (like me) see and hear new things in this subtle and multi-faceted score. A provocative and beautifully executed interpretation of this work."
Who Let That Horse In the Dining Room?
David Cady | Jersey City, NJ USA | 05/08/2007
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Robert Carsen, that's who! What's that you say, you don't remember a horse in "Der Rosenkavalier?" Bet you don't remember a dining room, either. But that's where Act 2 of Strauss's masterpiece inexplicably takes place in this updated, turn-of-the-century take by the Canadian badboy opera director. In fact, after the bedroom in Act 1 and the dining room in Act 2, I was a little concerned that Act 3 would take place in a lavatory. But no, we get a brothel instead. And what a brothel! I know I'm supposed to be shocked -- absolutely shocked!! -- and appalled (as have been some other reviewers) by the full frontal male and female nudity and the downright sordidness of it all, but what's really shocking is that Carsen thinks he's doing something new here. Hasn't he ever seen "Lulu?" Doesn't he know that Hal Prince and Bob Fosse did this kind of thing far better -- and with more style -- in their separate versions of "Cabaret" years ago?
As far as the performances go, this is something of a mixed bag. All the main roles are gorgeously sung, but only a couple of the interpretations actually land. Adrianne Pieczonka is a first class singer and a lovely woman (although here unflatteringly costumed), but her acting lacks the depth and contradictions that would make her a first-class Marschallin. We get no sense of the struggle within, the lust combating her sense of responsibility and religious faith, the insecurity at odds with her resignation and wisdom. Angelika Kirschschlager's sound is as rich and mellow as ever, but she overdoes the butch thing to the point that she ends up looking like Charlize Theron in "Monster." Only Miah Persson's charming, vulnerable Sophie and Franz Hawlata's comically smarmy Ochs are fully rounded characterizations, as solid as those that you'll find on other DVDs.
I wouldn't recommend buying Carsen's "Der Rosenkavalier" when there are so many more faithful, brilliantly performed versions out there; if you can rent it, rent it. You may find it shocking, you may find it boring, you may even find it entertaining. What you won't find is illumination. And if a director's reinterpretation of an opera doesn't in some way illuminate it in new and exciting ways, why bother?"
Mostly Good, but with some Surprises and Shocks
J Scott Morrison | Middlebury VT, USA | 11/11/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Salzburg Festival opera productions in the last few years have been infected with some of the worst of the Regietheater mystique and one comes to this DVD of a live performance at the 2004 production with some trepidation. But any concerns about how this opera could be Eurotrashed by the stage director are mostly set aside in the first two acts which, although updated to pre-World War I Vienna, have little to shock or unsettle the traditional opera fan. In the third act, though, we encounter some things that will upset some, amuse others. Instead of being set in the libretto's called-for 'inn', the act occurs in a brothel and there is a fair amount of frontal nudity and lascivious behavior to behold, although in fairness it is played for laughs and that mostly comes off. It certainly doesn't strike one as particularly erotic. However, the final scene is grievously miscalculated. After the Marschallin's noble gesture in which she urges Octavian leave her, follow his heart and go to Sophie, in the scene that includes the justly admired Trio, Octavian and Sophie follow with their Schubertian Duet by making out rather graphically on a huge bed (which, interestingly, recalls the bed in the Marschallin's boudoir in Act I) so that when the Marschallin and Sophie's father return (between the two verses of the duet) they walk past the grappling couple with nary a comment except the libretto's 'young people are like that' (Faninal) and 'ja, ja' (the Marschallin). Give me a break. Even in the decadence of pre-war Vienna it wouldn't have occurred that way. Robert Carsen's stage direction up to that point had generally been effective, but one's reaction to this is astonishment, not gentle bemusement as librettist Hoffmannsthal surely intended. One also hoped that Carsen, unlike earlier stage directors, could have come up with a reasonable explanation for how the Marschallin came to make her entrance at the low-down inn (or, in this case, brothel). But no explanation is indicated. Ah, well.
Musically, this is a good 'Rosenkavalier.' Semyon Bychkov leads an energetic, skillful performance. The Vienna Philharmonic is absolutely world-class in this complex score -- which surely they have played more than any other opera orchestra in the world. Only rarely are the singers' voices covered by the orchestra. Bychkov catches the echt-Viennese waltz rhythms perfectly in that string of waltzes that surely account for much of this opera's popularity.
The three leading female singers are excellent and well-matched. Adrianne Pieczonka is a noble yet intense Feldmarschallin. Her Act I monolog is moving, and beautifully sung. Angelika Kirchschlager's Octavian is suitably impetuous and passionate. She is particularly effective in the Act II presentation of the rose scene. And in her Mariandel impersonation, she gulls the Baron with comic style. Miah Persson, a beautiful woman (who looks a lot like Renée Fleming), manages the treacherous tessitura of the part of Sophie with grace and delicacy, yet she is not a chocolate box figure; she has spunk and fire. In both the Presentation of the Rose and the final Trio and Duet her high notes are pure and ethereally beautiful.
Franz Hawlata's Baron is only moderately good. His bass voice is not sonorous enough for the part, especially in its lower reaches. But he acts the part without resorting to hammy stereotypes and he even imparts some humanity to the role. Franz Grundheber makes the most of his Faninal but the voice sounds a bit worn at times. The minor roles are reasonably well-taken, and one must make special mention of the Police Commissar, sung by Florian Boesch. The cameo appearance of the Italian Singer, in the levee scene, is sung by tenor Piotr Beczala with both good voice and style and more than a touch of humor.
Sets are excellent, stage movement is relatively minimal. Particularly impressive is the huge banquet table in Act II and Carsen's choreography of the hordes of servants who attend the Faninal establishment.
There are numerous Rosenkavaliers on DVD. For me the best of the lot is still the Carlos Kleiber/Vienna/Lott/Bonney/Von Otter DVD from 1994.
Very dull gender pretzel of a Rosenkavalier
David H. Spence | Houston, TX | 07/23/2009
(2 out of 5 stars)
"An evening early this week sitting around a local university library, I had a new friend of mine walk up to me asking me to correct his English on email he was sending a Korean friend of his; he could not write it in Korean from where he was sending it. In it was brief reminiscence of visit to on east coast of Korea, Nacksan beach, where much to their dismay, numerous trannies gathered - transgenders as my friend refers to them but perhaps in more than one variety of such. I do not know since I have never been there. You ask what that has to do with Rosenkavalier and Richard Strauss. Well, read on. Before today, I would have never known. After the Prelude played in spirited but loose-ensemble fashion by the Vienna Philharmonic, the curtain opens on room in darkly lit deep gold embellished red, dominated by large bed, upon which we see Octavian and the Marschallin heavily making out. No surprises there.
Adrienne Pieczonka plays the Marschallin. She certainly is animated enough with the text and shows a relatively good understanding of some of it, and has a pleasing enough voice in midrange. Gone however from her portrayal of Marie Theres' is the expected femininity, degree of vulnerability, dignity, nobility, grace. Moreover there is little more than very approximate sense of legato or of the most consistently good or secure intonation. She, sufficiently relaxed, does spin off a couple of lovely phrases at the end of the First Act; long by then too much damage is done already.
Angelika Kirchslager makes a charming Octavian, girlish enough as a bit forced in attempting the seventeen year old boy, though not as thin a veneer in acting the teenager as with Anne Sofie von Otter for Kleiber. If low notes sounded a bit weak with Pieczonka, with Kirchslager, they were often swallowed to the point of having to listen quite hard for them at times. Support for making it through the break is at times secure and at other times for clearly understandable reasons a little precarious.
Franz Hawlata, of the three most important principals, is the most successful here, as Baron Ochs - vocally a performance only equaled here by Piotr Beczala (Italian Singer). He, most of all of any of this cast, allows himself excellent delivery of what the Baron has to sing and act, and in light bass-baritone - reminders of Manfred Jungwirth - deftly acted. He certainly has grown somewhat in this part since first heard in it. One wants this Rosenkavalier to come out right for Ochs long by the end of it.
We can now put aside initial casting considerations. One could conveniently overlook a few touches in the First Act that seemed rather odd - the entourage of men bringing in breakfast for the Marschallin and Octavian in their scene where they usually receive it from a single servant, usually one `of color.' Yet another touch was the Italian Singer taking his second verse in the antechamber to entertain several attractive dames lounging on the floor before him, two practically on their hands and knees. It would have been consistent with what we see in Act Three of this for them to go topless - then this scene could be mistaken for out of Salo. Beczala's offended gestures, the Notary's acting, the fashion display before the Marschallin - fortunately still easily distinguishable from gathering of real canines the Animal Seller brings on - are effective in the levee scene.
Act Two opens on a huge b/w mural very near stage front of some battle of presumably early previous century from when this Rosenkavalier takes place - right before World War One. Sophie von Faninal and the Baron meet at this ROTC club in Vienna, with only narrow space allowed - very long prepared table stretching all across the stage and whole several rows of men looking on behind it. Several senior officers thereof compare military armament components. The magic of the Presentation of the Rose, with forced playing to usher it in from the Vienna Philharmonic is damaged beyond repair.
The glib exchange of expressions between the Octavian and Sophie finishes up the rest of the damage to this scene, with approximate stretch for the stratosphere by the well endowed Barbie doll of a Sophie (Miah Persson). She comes on, with basically little more than a functionary of a Marianne and nearly voiceless Faninal alongside (Franz Grundheber) - other than being able to bellow out a few notes just a step or two above the staff. She is an eager Sophie in a cheerfully excited, breathless way, with no irony as to how Bob Carsen has set things up, in opposition to how Strauss characterizes Sophie at this point in his music for her. The Baron comes off as much more deserving of her, dapper handsome enough that Hawlata still is, than she is of him; the Faninal is too inept do anything about it, to still be later able to see it, or to be humorous at his part in the least. Lines - as well and very correctly and deftly pointed by Hawlata, much as they have been at their best before - for Ochs to Octavian about his chance to warm up the Sophie for him come off as tremendous unintended irony, such as they never have before. Once warmed up, Persson sings better, but with insufficient character or interest.
Rare occasion of some attractive representation of sex does arrive when Miah Persson, down to negligee for having been alone momentarily with Octavian, shakes her barely covered chest indignantly at whoever with whom she is trying to get her way. It brings to mind Mastroianni's comment in looking over Anita Ekberg, equally Swedish as Persson, playing an American actress, on American women in Fellini's La Dolce Vita. Persson is hardly less well endowed than Ekberg. The mostly ineffective Valzacchi (well sung by Jeffrey Francis) and émigré floozy Annina grab the Octavian and Sophie so politely, there should have been no trouble breaking free. Annina snatches wallet out of Ochs's coat at the end of Act Two, with having done nothing at any point to make anything of the character or certainly any menace, even as harridan during Act Three, of such at all.
Act Three gives us quite a unique choice-of-proclivities brothel that halfway through the act resembles a little too much the Marschallin's boudoir from Act One. One of the funniest scenes in an effective Rosenkavalier, especially when played complete which it isn't here is the scene that starts with the entrance of here the weakly sung Police Commissioner (Florian Boesch). I have not seen it pass by before with such complete absence of wit whatsoever. Bob Carsen commits to no more to do than just the very minimal expected blocking of people on stage for it. Kirchslager looks even more mannish as Mariandel in Act Three than in Act One. A wall, with doors inserted stays up close to front of the stage for a skittish account of the Intro and Pantomime from the Vienna Phil. A topless hooker is on the phone with johns or whoever at the start. Sure enough a bed crashes loud from wall to the floor for 'Mariandel' and Ochs; we have gratuitously added, for benefit of two lines of `Mariandel' and Ochs, a completely butt-naked older man (except for wearing dark socks) make circle from rear to front back to rear of stage to pick up chain or timepiece he is missing he then finds beneath mattress of a sofa. Much later, once the Marschallin alongside Faninal has finished sizing up how Octavian does it with Sophie, she tosses off `Ja, Ja' even more nonchalantly - worthy of loud laughter contemptuous of the line from the hall - than did Nina Stemme in Zurich - a fully attractive Rosenkavalier after this one. Not a peep is heard. Some Spanish émigré looking dude comes on for the brief orchestral epilogue to dance apoplectic with bottle in hand then flail about with a rifle as curtain falls on what is a complete disgrace.
Semyon Bychkov's conducting is just passable routine - bringing out some introspection of the score here and some earthiness there; the Vienna Philharmonic plays most of this without special distinction - as just going through the motions for most of it. They are not here worthy of their former selves under Kleiber (better more animatedly heard yet from Munich) or Karajan. Pandering mention is made in the liner notes of far more imaginative producers Konwitschny, Berghaus, and Wernicke (latter production now out on dvd, starring Hawlata again, opposite Fleming) - even though some of their ideas of Rosenkavalier may not be the most aesthetic either. Other than to hammer us over the head with idea that the preponderance of testosterone in late Hapsburg Europe brought everything down - there are no ideas here.
In Pieczonka's before-final-line-ogling of Octavian and Sophie - her lines earlier to Ochs about his not ever going to have opportunity to debauch her real Mariandel - ditto: what must the real one be like and do for the Marschallin - one begins to think of how well perhaps Pieczonka as the Feldmarschallin may be able to do in bed with this Sophie herself. There is gender twisting veneer with Kirchslager, the girlishness of her Octavian quite charming and the mannishness of her`Mariandel' definitely not, as to how she comes off best. Perhaps such is true for Pieczonka too; one wonders then who really should be on top for opening of the first scene.
The liner notes tell us that this Marschallin is a courtesan - one who might feel right at home, not near so awkward as usual in the brothel of Act Three. There is after all such a wide choice of arrangements there, as run by brassy sounding tranny landlord (Markus Petsch). As such, he introduces the Marschallin. Even Ochs - nearly as experienced as the Sophie that he is - is confused by seeing the man on stage we all do, making the Mariandel turn in askance toward him as to what could be wrong, and with the ever so menacing peep show he gets treated to for the trap-door scene. Bychkov elides past the quote from Elektra in the score used to indicate Ochs's impression of mental congestion a bit. It is neither first moment nor last of good humor of Hofmansthal and Strauss's own missed in a production providing meager little in way of real thrill or shock as well.
As confused as some sorts seem to be alongside Nacksan beach, I do not recommend this Rosenkavalier to be shown on either side of the divided peninsula where south of 38th this beach may be found - but I ask my Korean friends, as he offers his friend in speaking of their experience there - to curse for me what I saw today; it is not hard to imagine Koreans coming up with better imprecations than we occidentals are at it."