Strauss: Der Rosenkava­lier

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Music Reviews - Mark Cough­lan

Re­nee Flem­ing, Chris­tian Thiele­mann, Mu­nich Phil­har­monic

Decca THIS re­cently is­sued CD of Der Rosenkava­lier is based on a 2009 stage pro­duc­tion from BadenBaden that was re­leased pre­vi­ously on DVD. The prin­ci­pal dif­fer­ence be­tween lis­ten­ing to a record­ing of an opera and watch­ing it on video is that the mu­si­cal per­for­mance dom­i­nates over the the­atrics of the stag­ing. From the out­set, con­duc­tor Chris­tian Thiele­mann and the Mu­nich Phil­har­monic get right to the heart of Strauss’s richly com­plex and highly char­ac­terised score. Thiele­mann draws great sub­tlety and flex­i­bil­ity from the orches­tra, al­low­ing it to de­velop cli­mac­tic force when re­quired, con­trast­ing with el­e­gantly stylised Vi­en­nese waltzes and pas­sages of vir­tu­osic light­ness that are han­dled with con­sid­er­able fi­nesse. Re­nee Flem­ing, per­haps at the per­fect ca­reer phase to in­habit the role of the Marschallin, com­bines char­ac­ter­is­tic tonal beauty and warmth with an un­der­ly­ing sense of melan­choly. Her per­for­mance is al­ways heart­felt and as­sured, and an ex­cel­lent foil to the two younger women in sup­port­ing roles. So­phie Koch brings an in­ner vi­tal­ity to her sound that cap­tures the ar­dent youth­ful­ness of Oc­ta­vian. She im­presses across the range, but es­pe­cially in a glo­ri­ously res­o­nant low reg­is­ter. Her act-two duet with Diana Dam­rau, in the role of So­phie, pro­duces a mo­ment of sub­lime beauty, the pacing ex­pertly re­strained by Thiele­mann and the two voices in­ter­twin­ing with ex­quis­ite colour. Franz Hawlata as the Baron, while slightly less con­vinc­ing in vo­cal qual­ity, brings a well judged comic touch to the pom­pos­ity of the role. Jonas Kauf­mann makes a brief but spec­tac­u­lar cameo ap­pear­ance.

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