Opera Unchained

This past Saturday I got to enjoy my christmas present from my husband: tickets to see the Vlaamse Opera’s production of Der Rosenkavelier by Richard Strauss. I love going to the opera. In university, you get to hear many great arias in studios, area recitals, convocations, and student recitals, but only have one or two opportunities to see a fully staged operatic productions. So I try to go to as many different productions as I can.

Der Rosenkavealier, Op. 59, is a comic opera by Richard Strauss and libretto by Hugo von Hofmannsthal and Harry von Kessler. The story is about the Marschallin, Princess Marie Thérèse von Werdenberg, her young lover Octavian, her cousin Baron Ochs, and Och’s prospective fiancée Sophie. Baron Ochs comes to his cousin asking for a recommendation for a suitable young man to serve as his Rosenkavalier, to present the silver rose of engagement to Sophie. The Marschallin suggests her young lover Octavian, but when Octavian meets Sophie, it is love at first sight. Then it becomes a game of how to get rid of the Baron Ochs, with the Marschallin’s help. In the end, the Baron releases his claim on Sophie, and the Marschallin graciously yields Octavian to the young Sophie, and the two young lovers get their happily-ever-after. It’s deceptively powerful story, with romantic intrigue, laughter, and philosophical musings on growling older.

The Vlaamse Opera’s production of Der Rosenkavealier  was quite enjoyable. The acting from all the players was very authentic and the humor never relied on cheap tricks for laughs. The three leading ladies were very charming, and Stella Doufexis made a very convincing love-struck boy. The singing was enjoyable but admittedly a little difficult to hear frequently, but I blame the location of our seats in the hall more than the singers themselves. The opera hall in Antwerp can be very fickle with the sound. The last time we were at the opera, we sat center in the third balcony and no matter who was standing downstage overpowered every other musician. However, I have to say that Christiane Karg, who played Sophie in the production, was an absolute delight to listen to; her voice was a delicate whirlwind of artistry and emotion. My husband’s favorite singer of the night was Baron Ochs, played by Michael Kraus. He is the opinion that Mr. Kraus is an under herald singer in the production.

Me with my opera pearls, at the opera

However, it was the director of this particular production, Christoph Waltz, that surprised me the most. Yes the same Christoph Waltz who is a two-time Oscar-winning actor and best known for his roles in Inglourious Basterds and Django Unchained. This was Waltz’s debut as an operatic director and I am sure I was not the only one who was curious to see how the Hollywood star would fair in the operatic world. However, I must say I was not disappointed. His vision was minimalist and kept the focus on the text. There was always the minimum in scenery and actors on stage, but to the credit of the performers, one was never bored. The most interesting aspect for me was how Waltz used the scenery to help indicate private and public life, an important aspect of the story. The walls were literally broken down as the story progressed from the private morning  Marschallin’s audiences to the Baron’s unfortunate public humiliation at the inn. It was a lovely use of space and set.

All in all, the Vlaamse Opera’s put together a very solid production and Christoph Waltz’s vision did Strauss justice.  If you are interested in seeing this delightful production, you can find tickets for the Vlaamse Opera Ghent dates here.

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