Harry Kupfer stages an acclaimed "Rosenkavalier" at the Salzburg Festival.
Waltz chains at the time of Maria Theresa, in which the plot is set? There is something wrong with the "Rosenkavalier". Imagine the Princess Field Marshal, her much younger cousin Count Octavian, with whom she has an affair, and even Baron Ochs auf Lerchenau dancing minuets! We are dealing with one of the most delightful works of stylistic art, because Vienna around 1740 would have to sound quite different from this story of three female voices above a bass who is skilled in playing. The 1910 play with music by Richard Strauss has no real location, but its own, in the 20. Century archaizing art truth. In today’s theater, therefore, purely historicizing rococo can no longer apply.
Director Harry Kupfer already emphasized years ago that one had to get away from serving "this sugar-Mozart cliche substitute. His acclaimed "Rosenkavalier" takes place in the period in which the work was written.
118 times the audience favorite has passed over the stage of the Salzburg Festival since 1929. With the successful play by the founding fathers Strauss and Hugo von Hofmannsthal, directed by Rudolf Hartmann, Karajan opened the Grobes Festspielhaus in 1960, whose wide-walled stage and acoustics are not conducive to the conversational tone of the literarily cultivated poetry. In 1983/84 it is even said: Herbert von Karajan, conductor/production.
Now then the 119. Times. Outgoing artistic director Alexander Pereira is delighted with the "incredible gift" of being able to show "Don Giovanni" and "Rosenkavalier" in his last Salzburg summer. Revolutionary sounds different.
The Lerchenauer and the Bohemian maidens
It had to take until 2014, however, for the completely unabridged version to be given for the first time. This is mainly about the "maid’s tale" of Ochs, the noisy, grandiloquent country nobleman, and his erotic adventures. The abridgement because of "passages not fit for parlors" goes back to the censorship of the premiere in Dresden in 1911 and has made reception history. Now the Lerchenauer is allowed to tell in detail how he makes the Bohemian maids on his farm the victims of his sexual desires.
Kupfer, former chief director of the Komische Oper Berlin, has always loved to reopen strokes that have become naturalized in theatrical practice. Thus the "fat, older, presumptuous suitor" of little Sophie von Faninal presents himself more ruthlessly than the bass buffo usually interpreted in a lively manner only. The director is concerned with staging as concretely as possible in human terms.
It takes some getting used to that the role of Ochs auf Lerchenau was cast with a young singer, contrary to all experience. The Austrian Gunther Groissbock plays a snooty, smug and brutal, but not unsympathetic, when he dreams himself into a new night of love to the sound of waltzes with the pillow in bed with the Faninals. Groissbock was Fasolt in Frank Castorf’s Bayreuth "Rheingold" last year. As a relatively high bass, he hits the low notes of the Ochs part, with which he makes a noticeable effort, without possessing the timbre of basic power. The development remains to be seen. The audience celebrates its ox.
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The director does not forget the soul
The correspondence between Hofmannsthal and Strauss is not a document of friendship, as literary scholarship knows. There are contrasts and conflicts, but no common theme except the work. When Strauss writes to the over-sensitive poet, "You are da Ponte and Scribe in one person", it is an expression of thorough misunderstanding. Since Kupfer highly appreciates the libretto, which is here and there pushed into apparent harmlessness by the melting of the music, he is careful to stage the landscape of the soul as well: Time field of transience and eternity, the sensitive love triangle Marschallin-Octavian-Sophie. The inconstancy. Octavian’s love for the Marschallin is overtaken by his encounter with Sophie. All are wordless: "I don’t know anything either."
Unusually, the performance picks up speed precisely with the last act, which is often felt to be expendable. The bustle of footmen, kitchen staff, small children, suspicious characters has method in Kupfer’s work. At the inn, a "Viennese Maskerad’" is being prepared, a bit of theater in the theater. Now hints become clearer: The initially blond mop of hair of the ox was a toupee, because now the text speaks of a wig of his rococo outfit. There the director cleverly gets around. And it remains unmistakable that the eager Leiblakai, a grateful mute role, is a love fruit of the Lerchenauer, "a child of my whim". Mentioned this in the maid’s tale.
The Vienna Philharmonic makes a case for itself with its solos
Hans Schavernoch, Kupfer’s trusted set designer, creates a dream setting with projections of Viennese architecture and landscapes, as well as set pieces such as door, mirror, chair in the foreground. Dreams are as variable as the ambience, whether it is a roof terrace or a greenhouse or the Beisl that Schavernoch pushes in front of green trees. When the Marschallin sings her monologue about the passing of time, which one should not fear because she too is a creature of the father, there is a park landscape in autumn. Krassimira Stoyanova has a wonderful soprano for the part, shining effortlessly in the high regions of the great tercet at the end. The dialogue in the first act remains difficult to understand, blown away by the acoustics, not infrequently covered by the orchestra.
The Vienna Philharmonic makes a case for itself with its solos, while conductor Franz Welser-Most abandons his penchant for sweeping sweep in the accompaniment of fine melodies. Sophie Koch is an Octavian experienced in the role, Mojca Erdmann’s voice as Sophie too fragile when it comes to the scent of the "silver rose". Admittedly, in the context of the production she has to struggle with the fact that as a modern girl she has to "humiliate" herself all the time. With the direction Adrian Erod creates a character image of her father, the nouveau riche Lord of Faninal, which assumes submissiveness in order to gather self-confidence.
It is the small things in Kupfer’s direction of the characters that delight: How, in that era before World War I, the Ochs is unfamiliar with the sword Octavian hands him for the duel, so that he injures himself with it; how Octavian’s farewell to the older mistress – "Marie Theres, how good she is" – takes place on a park bench between the two of them alone, undisturbed behind the girl sitting in front, until the Marschallin departs, to her solitude. Then a vintage convertible drives up to take them home together with the Lord of Faninal. But the young couple sings their love duet, which is "a dream" with the sweet celesta sounds. "Beieinand’ for all time and eternity": that’s the question here.