April 2, 2006
Komische Oper Berlin

A first night to dream of

Homoki's Rosenkavalier at Komische Oper

Program

Richard Strauss
Der Rosenkavalier

Artists

Komische Oper Berlin
Conductor: Kirill Petrenko
Director: Andreas Homoki
Co-Director: Werner Sauer
Stage Designer: Frank Philipp Schlößmann
Chorus Master: Robert Heimann
Childrens Choir Chorus Master: Christoph Rosiny

Die Feldmarschallin Fürstin Werdenberg: Geraldine McGreevy
Der Baron Ochs auf Lerchenau: Jens Larsen
Octavian: Stella Doufexis
Herr von Faninal: Klaus Kuttler
Sophie: Brigitte Geller
Jungfer Marianne Leitmetzerin: Miriam Meyer
Valzacchi: Christoph Späth
Annina: Caren van Oijen
Ein Polizeikommissar: Manfred Sabrowski
Der Haushofmeister bei der Feldmarschallin: Peter Renz
Der Haushofmeister bei Faninal: Thomas Ebenstein
Ein Notar: Hans-Martin Nau
Ein Wirt: Thomas Ebenstein
Ein Sänger: Timothy Richards
Modistin: Karen Rettinghaus

Leserbrief/readers comment Druckversion/printversion

A first night to dream of

Homoki's Rosenkavalier at Komische Oper

By Katrin Kirsch / Photos: Monika Ritterhaus / Translation: Andrej Huesener

Der Rosenkavalier: zum Vergrößern klicken / click to enlarge

Does Berlin really need yet another Rosenkavalier? The audience at the Komische Oper's latest premiere on 2 April 2006 answered with an emphatic "Yes": long ovations and countless bravos. Homoki has put on an unassuming yet lovingly created Rosenkavalier, with strong moments that deploy simple, proven means, and in so doing he keeps the audience happy for 4 ½ hours. In recent months, the Komische Oper has been losing a significant part of its clientele, and this production is perfectly suited to attract new audiences, something which Homoki has publicly set out to achieve to secure his house's future. It is refreshing to see that Homoki's production does not try to transpose the piece to a contemporary setting at any price. He shows that it is perfectly possible to produce solid and effective musical theatre, though he did not quite achieve his objective of showing the opera - typically presented as grand spectacle - as a chamber piece using "modern and lucid" aesthetics.

Der Rosenkavalier: zum Vergrößern klicken / click to enlarge

In Act 1, the relatively small stage of the Komische Oper appeared even smaller, showing nothing but a palatial bedroom box in creamy white colours with three big French doors (stage design: Frank Philipp Schlößmann). In Act 2, the creamy-white bed was gone and the room of "nouveau riche" Faninal filled with black-lacquered furniture. Unfortunately as soon as the choir showed up, the room appeared simply too crowded and busy, made even worse by constant physical action and lots of running around. What was intended to be well-choreographed dynamics ended up looking one big mess. However, the concept did have its moments: when Octavian arrived to hand over the rose to Sophie, everyone on stage stood frozen in their movements for the duration of the duet. Similarly effective - though we have seen it before - was the idea to make the room box move after the duel scene, to illustrate how the Old World is slipping away on its shaky foundations. Act 3 shows complete anarchy - the bedroom is turned upside down, characters enter through windows, doors hang from the ceiling, black furniture is strewn all over the place, and muggers raid Faninal's family silver. All this was accompanied by the constant and somewhat tiresome use of thunderous noise, stroboscope lights and similar boring lighting effects.

Musically, however, the evening is a huge success. The orchestral playing of the excellent Komische Oper Orchestra, conducted by its ingenious Chief Conductor Kirill Petrenko, is nearly faultless. After starting off somewhat shakily, Petrenko was always highly attentive and his orchestra (greeted with an extra ovation at the beginning of Act 3) played especially Strauss' lyrical passages with tension and concentration.

Der Rosenkavalier: zum Vergrößern klicken / click to enlarge

Most parts were sung mainly by company principals who maintained the high musical level of the orchestra. Before the curtain rose, the Artistic Director announced that Jens Larsen, who sings Baron von Ochs, was suffering from a windpipe infection. A replacement had been organised and was available to stand in at short notice. But if Larsen was ill, it hardly showed at all. He was simply brilliant as the ill-mannered skirt-chaser. If only the direction had allowed Larsen to show the character to be more than that - Ochs was reduced to a boorish buffoon without any aristocratic merits.

The marvellous Stella Doufexis, who joined the Komische Oper this season as company principal, was an impressive Octavian throughout. Despite some eccentric behaviour, her playing was always natural. Her appearance dressed up as Mariandel in Act 3 proves Doufexis is not just a good singer but also has considerable acting skills - a veritable clown in the best sense of the word and a world-class performance. Joined by Geraldine McGreevy as Marschallin and Brigitte Geller as Sophie in the famous final trio, these three wonderful singers showed off the sheer beauty of Strauss' vocal writing: for a moment it seemed as if the world stood still. McGreevy's portrayal of the Marschallin is dignified, far removed from the overprecious overacting which so often can mar this part. Her reflections on the passing of time are melancholic rather than desperate. At the end, when young lovers Sophie and Octavian are united she first breaks down in tears, only to suddenly free herself of her restrictive crinoline dress and emerge as a young liberated woman - the end of an era or the beginning of a new one?



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