Strauss: Der Rosenkavalier
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.