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Paul Turok
Turok’s Choice, May 2009

Strauss’ Der Rosenkavalier received a moving performance by the Dresden Opera in Tokyo in 2007. The Marshallin is Anne Schwanewilms, a handsome woman who sings like an angel. Octavian, Anke Vondung, sings well, but her intimate gestures interacting with Sophie (that would pass unnoticed in the opera house but are seen in DVD close-ups) are those of a woman, not of the man she is supposed to be. Sophie is Maki Mori; her voice seems a bit light for the role, especially in the ensembles with Vondung and Schwanewilms, although her singing is fine. Baron Ochs is Kurt Rydl, whose rich voice and rambunctious acting are equally enjoyable. Fabio Luisi conducts the Staatskapelle Dresden, which plays the score brilliantly. Uwe Eric Laufenberg’s staging is updated to after WW II, without seriously harming the work. The main difference seems to be in the costuming and he makes you care a lot about the characters, a rare occurrence in most operas. Fine video and sound (PCM Stereo and Dolby Digital 5.1). DTS5.1 Surround, offered as an option, did not produce decent results.



Robert Croan
Opera News, March 2009

A t first glance, this Rosenkavalier from the Dresden Semperoper, filmed on tour in Tokyo’s NHK Hall on November 25, 2007, has all the hallmarks of a modernized staging. The set designs (Christoph Schubiger) and costumes (Jessica Karge) place Strauss’s opera in the present day. The lovemaking in the opening scene is depicted more explicitly than it might have been in the past, and photographers set up their cameras to photograph the presentation of the silver rose. Yet despite the updating, Uwe Eric Laufenberg’s staging is almost jarringly conventional. Alter the scenery and costumes along with a few details here and there, and this would be a traditional, old-fashioned Rosenkavalier.

The production, as directed for television by Eiji Yoshida, is remarkably convincing in depicting its characters’ feelings and reactions. Yoshida begins with the larger picture, then revels in individual faces and personal interactions. Fabio Luisi, the Staatskapelle’s present music director, maintains the quality, attending to details, tending to understate, never overpowering the voices, while investing bigger moments with the requisite energy and fullness. (It should be noted that this set is recorded at a low level; I had to turn the volume controls higher than usual.)

In the title role, Anke Vondung creates an appealing, believably masculine Octavian, palpably torn between an older woman and a girl his own age. Vondung’s high, light mezzo-soprano projects the text clearly and blends well in the important rose duet and Act III trio. She is particularly convincing in the opening scene with the Marschallin, where their love play and verbal exchanges flow naturally and with a ring of truth.

Taking top honors is Anne Schwanewilms, a radiant, elegant Marschallin. A gorgeous woman—it was Schwanewilms who replaced Deborah Voigt as Covent Garden’s Ariadne and wore the infamous "little black dress" in 2004—she looks and even sounds a bit like Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, though livelier and more approachable in character. She has the noble bearing, wears clothes like a high-fashion model, and is painstaking in delivering individual words meaningfully. Her monologue is carefully nuanced; less expected is the piquancy and vocal panache with which she soars into the sarcastic phrase to Ochs, "Ich sehe, Euer Liebden betreiben es als Profession" (I see, your lordship follows [womanizing] as a profession).

Less satisfying is Maki Mori’s cold, china-doll Sophie, though her thin soprano has point and projection. She comes into her own in the final trio and duet, where, in tandem with Schwanewilms and Vondung, she really makes the music soar.

Kurt Rydl’s Ochs is disappointing in a different way. Obviously seasoned in the role, the veteran bass retains his booming resonance in the middle voice, but his high and low notes are unsteady, and his characterization has disintegrated into physical vulgarity and vocal bluster. Hans-Joachim Ketelsen’s Faninal, on the other hand, is superbly vocalized and portrayed as a believably insecure, upwardly-striving businessman.

The Valzacchi and Annina of Oliver Ringelhahn and Elisabeth Wilke are just likable enough to be dangerous—and very well sung, too—while Sabine Brohm makes the duenna Marianne a sympathetic foil for Faninal. Roberto Saccà gives an unaffected, unstrained rendition of the Italian Singer’s aria, which is saying a lot.



Kurt Moses
American Record Guide, March 2009

During the Prelude, the Marschallin and Octavian—shown in black silhouette—are tearing the clothes off each other and rushing into bed. As the prelude ends, they emerge from under the sheets (actually it’s one big sheet) and walk around the room in their underclothes. They then settle down to cooing and billing until Mohammed comes in with their breakfast. Yet they sing quite well. Anke Vondung is a young, good-looking, and frisky Octavian who looks and acts like a randy teenager besotted with the somewhat older Marschallin. That may or may not be “authentic” but it’s more realistic than any production I’ve seen. Vondung’s velvety voice is smooth and beautiful and she’s an excellent actress, both physically and vocally. Anne Schwanewilms’s less sumptuous soprano is sometimes overwhelmed by her lover’s impetuous singing, but she is a very sensitive and intelligent artist. Her acting is more restrained and less spontaneous, and her monologs in Act 1 are a bit too mannered; I looked in vain for singing that reflects her deeper feelings. It may be that the role is new for her and she has not yet explored all its nuances. But she is a slim, attractive woman with a fine stage presence and an alluring voice…As Sophie, the Japanese soprano Maki Mori, a slim, petite, child-like ingenue, steals the show in much of Act 2, even after Ochs tries to upstage her with his boorishness. Her clear, bell-like soprano is a bit thin in texture, and there are a few vocal rough spots, but she’s a charmer and a fine vocal actress. Sometimes she is too giddy, but she has a winning stage personality and her German diction is very good.

The Marschallin’s levee in Act 1 follows tradition. The minor roles are well cast. Hans-Joachim Ketelsen’s Faninal is on the mark (he faints when Sophie repels Ochs) and his voice is more than adequate. Oliver Ringelhahn (Valzacchi) isn’t the shadowy intriguer of most productions—he’s quite assertive and sometimes tries to steal a scene, perhaps because his voice isn’t impressive. Annina, his companion, plays her role much better.

Luisi’s credentials as a Strauss conductor include an excellent revival of The Egyptian Helen last year at the Met, and his work here only adds to his stature. He is very sensitive to his singers, notably Schwanewilms, whom he seems to indulge a bit in the Act 1 monologs by keeping the orchestra light and slow. Yet the orchestra, given its head, sounds well balanced and robust, and has a beautiful tonal sheen.






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1:57:00 PM, 29 July 2014
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