Friday, May 27, 2016


Any lingering quibbles about the cancellation of Anja Harteros (not that much of a surprise) from the current Paris run  of Herbert Wernike's Der Rosenkavalier were soon banished when at the end of the overture, bristling and waltzing and bubbling along with Phillipe Jordan and the Orchestra of the Opera Nationale of Paris, Mohammed appears as a Commedia dell'arte clown in black face and with a sweep of arm and white gloved hand welcomes us and bids us enter ....... the bedroom.

The production dates from Salzburg in 1995 (has been distributed on DVD(*) with a glamorous highly marketable cast and remained till yesterday an unseen bit of operatic legend for me. Thankfully. The evolution of the beauty of it seen the first time live is something pretty special - especially on this big Bastille stage. And in the vastness of it all, whether dealing with large scenes of chorus and endless numbers of extras, or two lovers in a bed, the choreography seemed faultless, impeccably stylish, brilliantly clever and witty, detailed to a inch, and never without old Vienna in focus.

We have stepped into a vast multi-pannelled mirrored early 20th C bedroom glowing under an acre of fractured (lit-from-behind) deco ceiling, a woman motionless on her back while some way from the bed a boxers and shirt clad young man smokes a cigarette. It's a bedroom of importance.

Scene changes move seamlessly with slides, turns and revolves of these panels, broken by (hand-painted I understand) murals evoking the Marie Therese epoch. Everything and everyone is at once on stage in 3D and reflected at any number of angles and pserpectives, or not all all. Reality is a shifting thing and nothing is as it might seem, nor stays the same.

Yet in the midst of this hologram (if you really let yourself go), the characters are as beautifully alive as are the household patterns, the country city divide, the hint of darkness, and the shimmer of love.

And Mohammed will draw the curtains back together several hours later, wiping his black face off, the show's over folks, and bid us farewell. (All three dropped handkerchiefs and Mohammed picked up .... Octavian's!)

It's not fair to get into the voices really; I mean what's to say. They were stunning. Michaela Kaune stepped beautifully up to the plate restricted only by the size of the barn though she'd conquered (or save for) it by the big trio. And she did look a bit young, Countess's wish notwithstanding.

Daniela Sindram's Octavian is outstanding, blitzing the role vocally and dramatically. That she may be leaving the role and moving to bigger heavier stuff is understandable; Countess's loss. No silvered knight this betrothal agent but, in genus at work, he arrives from the depths as the (reproduced in flats) Empire stairs cleave wide, on a big black stair case and with black on black looks breathtakingly suspended in midair immobile in a cream white topcoat and tails, Dietrich -esq. Cross-dreassing cross-dressing.

And it is Erin Morley's lovely girlish (but never silly) and on the cusp Sophie who ascends the stairs, a startling seduction in lieu of the usual descent by the male.

I've seen Peter Rose's Ochs before and it is a wonderfully beguiling performance. And long - he doesn't drop it for a second. Beautifully articulated, his muddied aristocracy is endearing and his bafflement at the ways and mores of the city, rather than the oft over-gauched performance, is very engaging. You need to like Ochs and Mr Rose makes it easy. You needs to like everyone. And there was lots of everyones, and they were perfect.

The other presence still well in my mind is Eve-Maud Hubeaux's Annina. What a fabulous performer - tall and elegant, naughty but nice, and a big voice.

The lighting by Werner Breitenfelder is simply masterful.

We went Sunday May 15 in the afternoon in really good seats - way to go here. S and friends had come from Nuremberg.

Some idea of the numbers on stage:

Phillipe Jordan with principals behind from (our) left to right - Kaune, Morley, Rose (behind PJ's arm) and a very masculine looking Sindram just in frame on the right :

(*) It's impossible to believe for a second that the specialness of the production, the sheer scale and beauty of it, is within the scope of the camera. It's vital that you decide where the eyes go - it's huge - and for how long. Otherwise you miss out on a lot.

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