Cast list: Felicity Lott: Marschallin — Kurt Moll: Der Baron Ochs auf Lerchenau — Anne Sofie von Otter: Octavian — Gottfried Hornik: Herr von Faninal — Barbara Bonney: Sophie — Olivera Miljakovic: Jungfer Marianne Leitmetzerin
... more »
Heinz Zednik: Valzacchi
Anna Gonda: Annina
Keith Ikaia-Purdy: Ein Sänger
Lotte Leitner: Eine Modistin Vienna State Opera Chorus and Orchestra, Carlos Kleiber, conductor. Based on a stage production by Otto Schenk« less
J Scott Morrison | Middlebury VT, USA | 06/23/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"You'd probably have to call me a Rosenkavalier groupie. I've loved the opera since I first encountered it on a Met broadcast in high school back in the 1950s. My first recording was the hallowed Karajan/Schwarzkopf/Ludwig from 1956. I've owned possibly ten different versions on LP and CD, including the abridged 1933 version with Lehmann/Schumann/Olszewska. I've read the score repeatedly at the piano and even served as a sub-repetiteur for a local production. I've owned the VHS version of this performance since shortly after it came out, kindly sent me by a friend in Berlin. So, when I converted to DVD there was no problem deciding which version to get. It had to be this one. It has everything. Consider this. The conductor is one of the giants of today, Carlos Kleiber. I already knew, from the earlier Munich CD, that he had this opera completely in his bloodstream, and here he's conducting the Vienna Opera Orchestra who do, too, of course. And I wasn't surprised when the VHS of this performance lived up to that standard. The three sopranos who are so important to the opera are, get this: Felicity Lott, Sophie von Otter, and Barbara Bonney. Now where could you get a better cast that that today? Not only do they sing like angels - the Marschallin's monolog and the ensuing duet with Octavian alone are precious beyond words - but they look the part, too. The 'Presentation of the Rose' scene is beyond praise. Add in the cavernous bass and sly acting of Kurt Moll as Baron Ochs and you get a sure-fire combination. Heck, I even liked Mohammed, a mute part!But the clincher for my getting this version on DVD was that I would be able to have English subtitles. I'm modestly fluent in German (I've even been told I have a Viennese accent when I speak German; it must be all the time I've spent with 'Rosenkavalier') but one doesn't always catch the sung words in this most elegantly sly of libretti, so one can have subtitles in English, as well as German, French or Chinese.In other words, this is the pick of the crop. I love other audio-only versions, but the combination of artists (not to speak of the sumptuous mise-en-scène in this production) makes this the best audiovisual representation of this masterpiece.Review by Scott Morrison"
A triumph for all concerned!
Plaza Marcelino | Caracas Venezuela | 08/26/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Although just appearing in a DG dvd, this is the taping of a 7-year old performance(a composite of several ones? the booklet just says "taped in Vienna, 3/94") that must have sent home the fortunate ones present with a smile broad as their faces. And what a performance it is! I wonder if there's a conductor better equiped to tackle this complex score than Carlos Kleiber, who must have the score embedded in his genes (his father Erich, one of the foremost conductors of the first half of the 20th century, was also an outstanding exponent of the piece, his version preserved by Decca). There's an earlier taping of the original Otto Schenk production from which this one derives that has been severally available in vhs and laserdisc and which I haven't seen, but I could catch an actual performance in Munich many years ago and if my memory doesn't betray me, this one is superior if only by notches (the actual singers may have been different in that 1974 evening from the ones featured in the video, though, so please bear with me). Lott (Dame Gwyneth Jones in the Munich performance, with a few vocal problems but with an equally grand presence) is an ideal Marschallin, never losing her poise without appearing icy or aloof (as Schwarzkopf sometimes might), her exit in Act III an example of true aristocratic flair and grace under the inevitable. Von Otter is too beatiful a woman to play a truly credible boy of 17 and her stage manners are way too feminine, but her singing is so ravishing one quickly forgets about it. Brigitte Fassbaender took care of this role in the Munich performance and I recall her portrayal as truly superior, her looks and ways more "masculine" and thus more up to the role (but I'll keep Von Otter's voice for pure pleasure!). The Ochs I saw in the Munich rendition under Kleiber I mentioned was Karl Ridderbusch, an outstanding Ochs if there ever was one, equally matched in this new video by the similar-voiced Kurt Moll, who perhaps might have shown more restraint in his stage ways (after all, Ochs is also of the aristocracy, not a rogue). And the Sophie of your dreams is undoubtedly Barbara Bonney, here resplendent in voice and looks. The camera takes are thoughtful and made with good taste, never obtrusive or "imaginative" as in other videos. Mind you, look no further: even if this were an audio-only release, it will be worth avery penny invested on it. And with the Vienna Philharmonic (well, with their "Orchester der Wiener Staatsoper" hats) in top-notch form under a most inspired conductor, this will surely stand the test of time as well as those other classic non-video accounts of the score, the 1956 Karajan (the Czinner film notwithstanding) and the even earlier from the hands of Kleiber père. DG have opted to edit out end-of-act curtain calls, bows and cheers, save for Act 1, a decision I don't understand for I'm sure the house must have come down with cheering and applause after such a delightful evening."
Embarrassment of Riches
I. Martinez-Ybor | Miami, FL USA | 01/02/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Carlos Kleiber's conducting once made this Vienna performance of Rosenkavalier the preferred DVD of the opera. It has an inner glow and musicality hard to resist. It is mellow but never slacks. Perhaps it has a melancholy edge, but it does not exploit sentiment. The many thematic references (quasi leitmotivs) in the score are always structurally cogent, conducted as to be clearly and easily grasped without underlining, never losing momentum and flow. The Wiener Staatsoper Orchestra (outside the pit known as the Vienna Philharmonic) clearly return the love with which they are conducted. One could speculate that Kleiber fashioned this performance mindful of the Marschallin throughout, though the central character is indeed the Rosenkavalier. And in von Otter, it boasted THE Octavian of her generation. This veiled valedictory (never maudling) tone is not unique to Kleiber, and certainly not a misconception; it is a distinctive characteristic of this performance.
HOWEVER..... now we have a new DVD of a Munich performance fifteen years earlier, and, as it happens, Kleiber's strongest competition turns out to be his younger self. Munich gives us faster, more incisive tempos (indeed, the performance is 7 minutes shorter). It is lively and rambunctious though always executed with the clarity and structural cogency found in the Vienna performance as noted above. If Vienna is in the spirit of the Marschallin, Munich embodies Octavian, who, after all, is young, happy, in love, and the character after whom the opera is named. And in Brigitte Fassbaender it has THE prime exponent of the part in the post-Christa Ludwig era.
So, where do we come out? The direction for both performances is by Otto Schenk (though Vienna is a revival of Schenk's original by somebody else). Anyway, it has not varied much in fifteen years. Munich seems fresher, more alert, indeed happier, mirroring Kleiber's more extrovert conception. The Munich voices are all bigger and in excellent shape. Gwyneth Jones, a superb actress, then reigning queen at Bayreuth and without the unsteadiness which could occassionally creep into her powerful instrument, gives here, as the Marschallin one of the most subtle, colorful and moving performances of her career, one that has included roles such as all Brunnhildes, Sieglinde, Isolde, Ortrud, Aida, Cherubini's Medea and Strauss's Helen. Felicity Lott's intelligence and thorough professionalism are no match for the sum of qualities, including vocal richness, Jones brings to the part. Barbara Bonney is a charming, vocally secure, sweet Sophie in Vienna, but, again, no match for the vocal prowess, communicative skills, the sheer musical joy conveyed by Lucia Popp as Sophie in Munich(note: before her untimely and shockingly sudden death a handful of years ago, Popp had already graduated to the Marschallin, the same leap taken by Schwarzkopf many years before). Octavian is Brigitte Fassbaender, a wonderful actress with a distinctive, powerful voice (a Fricka, a Brangaene) who exhuberantly embodies the raging hormones of our barely post-adolescent hero. As artists, von Otter and Fassbaender are more evenly matched than the others mentioned, though their approaches to Octavian are different: both are aristocratic, wilfull, elegant, clearly in love with love, von Otter is funnier, Fassbaender is lustier (the bigger, darker, more colorful voice helps). I have seen quite a few Octavians on stage, starting with Christa Ludwig in the sixties, all of them very good, but, after Ludwig, none better than the two ladies here. Kurt Moll is a wonderful Ochs, vocally splendid throughout, quite well suited to Kleiber's overall conception in Vienna. On the other hand, in this part I prefer the vocal brilliance and stage magnetism of Manfred Jungwirth (though, unlike Moll, to my knowledge he never was a Gurnemanz, a Marke, a Zarastro) . The Italian tenor in Munich is Francisco Araiza at the start of his career. For the record, I was fortunate to see Kleiber conduct Rosenkavalier at the Met, in a different production, but with virtually the same cast as in the Vienna DVD.
So, if one loves the opera and has the means, why choose? There are enough differences to appreciate each performance on its own terms and both will give much pleasure. Get both. If there are other priorities and one has to choose, I'd go for Munich. The strengths are palpable from the pit to the kinder in the final act. Whatever you do, one can't go wrong with either of Kleiber's performances.
I can think of no conductor I have ever enjoyed watching conduct more than Kleiber, live or on DVD. Apart from the awesome interpretative values he brought to his performances, his joy in making music was exhilarating and contagious. Without detracting from stage business, both DVD's give us ample shots of orchestra and conductor."
Splendid, traditional, exceptionally well sung
Linda Yoder | Morton, IL United States | 06/03/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I own four versions of Rosenkavalier, including the Paul Czinner film (1961) that I saw with thousands of other Chicago kids at Arie Crown Theatre (I still have the playbill). This is, without a doubt, the best sung of all of them. As a DVD, unlike the Italian version I also own, the subtitles are available in German, which makes this a spectacular tool for opera students. Barbara Bonney (Sophie) also appeared in another version in my collection, the 1985 Covent Garden production with Kiri Te Kanawa, available only on VHS. Even nine years later in this version, her Sophie is a hoot. I realize that von Otter is almost too beautiful to be Octavian, but suspend your disbelief. Vocally, she's the best Octavian I have on any kind of recording. Lott treats the Marchalin role with more tragedy than Te Kanawa or even Schwartzkopf, but she's splendid. Kurt Moll (Ochs) appeared on the PBS "Great Performances" version from the Metropolitan in the mid-1980s and seemed to me then the most menacing Ochs I'd ever seen, but in this DVD, he's quite mellow and has that trademark voice for which he's known. Even if this is not my favorite version (I prefer the directing and acting in the 1984 Covent Garden production), its subtitles, sound, and cast ability in general are the BEST."
Kleiber 1994 versus Kleiber 1979 ... the winner is ...
S. Lachterman | Hillsdale NY | 08/18/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Carlos Kleiber, one of the most magnetic masters on the podium, leads this radiant and utterly enjoyable DVD performance of Rosenkavalier, recorded in 1994, Vienna. His approach less brilliant, but more relaxed than his 1979 tape with the Munich Staatsoper. As to the principals: Kurt Moll's imparts his velvety bass cantabile to a role all too often taken for a comic ride. His Baron, in fact, is astonishingly smooth; he is entirely comfortable in those very low parts Strauss gives him. Anne Sofie Von Otter, a tall and lanky Octavian, plays the male-female mix better than anyone I have heard before. She is a true virtuoso and great comedienne in the tavern scene. Her voice is has an astonishing freshness and clarity; it can be, at one point sweet, at another luscious, and, at another spare and comic. Felicity Lott is a stately and mature Feldmarschellin and a fine contrast to Barbara Bonney's girlish Sophie. The Trio that ends Act III, is amazing; the three women's voices are breathtaking. The Vienna State Opera Orchestra (largely drawn from the Vienna Philharmonic) is, as expected, first rate.
For those who already have Kleiber's tape performance of 1979, make sure you buy this DVD as well. Kleiber's earlier performance is glittering and pointillist in approach. By 1994, the conductor, who seemed to have aged ungracefully in fifteen years, is far more "gemütlich" -- tender and warm -- than in the earlier sensational and brash interpretation. The Munich orchestra is far brighter, but the Vienna has a certain inner glow. Manfred Jungwirth's Baron is more comedic (a la W.C. Fields) than Moll's, but, as mentioned before Moll's voice is perfect. Moll's only bad habit, one that would not be seen from afar, is to habitually look aside for prompts. Brigitte Fassbaender, the 1979 Octavian, is really boyish and betters von Otter in playing a boy-who-is-playing-a-girl. Fassbaender looks awkward, and walks like a faux-femme in the Tavern scene. However, von Otter's voice wins. Gwyneth Jones's Feldmarschellin is, I think, more refined than Lott's. Lucia Popp is equaled by Barbara Bonney. However, the original 1979 staging is far better (original Schenk) than in the 1994 (based-on Schenk)
Warning: The sound in the 1979 is actually better for older TVs and VCRs; in fact, it's amazingly good. But, if you play this new 1994 DVD on older equipment, it may sound rather pale. It wasn't until I popped it in a surround-sound system that I really heard the *all* the music.