Tuesday, 8 December 2009
You know there's something wrong in Strauss's Der Rosenkavalier when a Marschallin lacks personality and Sophie Anna Barbara von Faninal, in effect her younger self but with a better chance of happiness, makes more of an impact. So it was at Covent Garden yesterday when Lucy Crowe showed more spirit and voice than Soile Isokoski's not very endearing Marschallin. I had her picture here, but as the Royal Opera seems to be the only organisation that doesn't, as it stands, like blogs using their publicity photos, I've had to replace her with the equally good Sarah Tynan receiving the silver rose from Sarah Connolly's Octavian in the McVicar production at ENO (photo by Clive Barda).
I won't write more about the less well co-ordinated Royal Opera show here; you can see what I thought - with pictures - on theartsdesk.
What I will say is how it rather reinforced what I've always felt, which Kate Hopkins expands upon in her Colette-oriented programme article: that Sophie is more than just the ordinary young girl dismissed by Hofmannsthal. She lacks the experience of the Marschallin, but she shows every sign in her indignant diatribes against a horsebreaking potential husband of becoming as wise as Resi. David McVicar's original Scottish Opera production pointed up the parallels by giving both women the same baby-doll wig. I've only seen one weak Sophie on stage, Patricia Petibon in Vienna. The others I best remember were all lassies of great spirit: Barbara Bonney, Lisa Milne, Rosemary Joshua, Marie Arnet stepping in for Sue Gritton and lighting up the stage as no-one else did in that ENO revival, Tynan and now Crowe. Just for the hell of it (and because a second Royal Opera picture had to go), I've edited my own perfect-rose picture for silvery inclusion here.
Crowe phrased 'Wie himmlische, nicht irdische' more ecstatically than anyone I've ever heard on stage - though no-one can surpass Lucia Popp here. Her Sophie and Walter Berry's Ochs, even more meticulously detailed than Peter Rose's last night, go with Bernstein's spectacularly stretched-out vision on the CBS Rosenkavalier so recently reissued by Sony. It may not be a standard, but no-one who loves this opera should fail to snap it up.
Well, I have been an old grump this week over two operas I love so much being only half-cooked ('ist mein Leiblied, weiss sie das?', I could say of Rosenkav). Sir Colin Davis's Verdi Otello in concert irritated more than it delighted me. I went back to the second of the two performances on Sunday to check I wasn't being too dyspeptic about the stand-in, Simon O'Neill. He did a good job under the circumstances, but Shakespeare's Moor he ain't.