White Shirt Monday: Under On The Covers

[Cover for the Baden-Baden Carsen “Rosenkavalier” (both DVD & audio), starring Sophie Koch (Octavian) and Renée Fleming (Marschallin). – Hot chocolate, anyone?! – Photo Credit: Decca]

I don’t think I’ll ever be over the cool 80s cover of the Haitink box set (also, there’s early 90s Dame Kiri on there, so that pretty much cinches it), but if you had to pick one scene to put on the cover of a Rosenkavalier recording, a mezzo in a white shirt (shouldn’t those sleeves be rolled up at this point, though?) with a delighted soprano is the way to do it. – Thank you, Decca.

Also, that is one lucky cup of chocolate, although it does get in the way a little.

While looking for the image, I couldn’t smother a grin at the fact that  the Warrior Princess Companion Retailer tries to bundle this box set with Grace Garanča’s “Romantique” album. I guess that was called “Thigs that start with “Ro”, for $400.”

If you need a few Rosenlavalier-related monday chuckles, ponder the casting of Octavian, or your reaction to the trio of all trios, which, in tumblr age, are both related to this one.

28 thoughts on “White Shirt Monday: Under On The Covers”

    1. It’s definitely moving at a different speed, has a different style of expression and uses a different way of intertextual connection — I’m still learning to read the “idiom”, but it often leaves me feeling old, as well.


    2. Tumblr *constantly* uses moving GIFs, which can be quite distracting, even for a daily Tumblr user like myself. It helps if you think of Tumblr as Hogwarts, a magical place where the pictures move. 😉


  1. That Haitink Rosenkavalier cover… Von Otter looks pretty much the same, and Dame Kiri is as beautiful as ever. Her “Dove Sono” always melts my heart, and I perpetually wonder how the Count could ever have abandoned those beautiful brown eyes and glorious high notes. What a bastard!


    1. and blind and deaf, apparently! (no offense to the non-seeing and non-hearing)
      It’s wonderful to see that Dame Kiri’s magic is transcending time and age. I remember rushing on her int the Ponnelle Figaro movie when the Ponnelle movie came out and that was what, 23 years ago?


      1. I do enjoy Ponnelle’s productions, but the costumes are over-the-top (which is part of the fun, sometimes), and the staging is often park-and-bark (due to the huge costumes, perhaps? :D) However, Mozart transcends any time and place! Haven’t listened to Dame Kiri in some time; must rectify that soon. Thanks for the reminder. 🙂


        1. Ponnelle, where every detail has its own details! 😀 Sometimes, it’s too much for me and I just want an empty stage and some Konwitschny staging… They were a relevation when they first came out, though, especially the Zurich Monteverdi cycle (late 70s, I think?) and craft-wise, they are still top-notch. The man knew his scores.
          Still, in watching that Figaro again (it’s on YT in its entirety… squeee!), it’s 1780s heavily meeting the 1980s – the hair! The make-up!! Although I’m still gone over Dame Kiri, especially in that Dove sono flashback. I really should have realized I was gay at age 11. It was painfully obvious!


  2. Details within details is a great description of Ponnelle. In general, I prefer minimalism, but sometimes the grandeur of opera demands a grand staging (tho grand stagings are probably more suited to works of Verdi/Berlioz rather than works of Mozart).

    I did like the minimalism of the I Capuleti e i Montecchi staging that Kasarova/Netrebko were in a few months ago, but I have spent many fruitless hours pondering the significance of the sink that Giulietta climbs around on! 😀

    I am fond of the incredibly wide Ponnelle dresses and the extravagant wigs on the sopranos, but I often feel that the mezzos should be more streamlined and thus more dashing (thinking in particular of Mozart’s “Mitridate” here), cuz that’s really the point of opera, no? To make the ladies swoon over the amazingly attractive and talented female voices??? 😀


    1. streamlined mezzos… not Ponnelles’s forte, nope. 😉
      I like his Mozart (just not every day), and I believe his baroque way of storytelling with all the details works best on narrative that is written in the same spirit, like Monteverdi, Mozart and Rossini. I can’t really imagine Ponnelle with 19th century (then again, he invented that fabulous tree for the Bayreuth Tristan in 1983, so perhaps I’m wrong). Doing that Mitridate so over the top “authentic” and in the Teatro Olimpico to boot was eye-opening when it came out.
      Personally, I prefer the concept stagings of Wieler or Konwitschny or Carsen (when he’s not just pretty, but also smart) or (idol of White Shirtery!), Loy etc. – plus they conveniently come with dashingly costumed mezzos. Oh, and I need to add Kerkhof to that list. I have neither seen his Alcina nor his Figaro live, but the trouser role staging… oh my.

      Oh, and whoever figures out the meaning of the sink should get a toaster. Or a pair of wingtips! 😉


  3. $400.00? Really?
    I don’t think the Fleming/Koch pairing worked very well – two straight girls and all that – I don’t think Koch could quite get into character….


    1. at what sum does Jeopardy usually start? (writing 26,99 would have killed the joke – or not?).
      Koch, I can appreciate objectively and she sings beautifully in this one, but I never had the von Otter/Fassbaender/Troyanos reaction to her, which is entirely my fault, not hers.


      1. Sorry about not getting the jeopardy thing – an insufficiency of wit on my part, as you would expect!
        Ah yes, the magic ingredient…. Strange how it seems to work, and its not imagination on our parts. Fassbaender could do it with her eyes, and a subtle touch. No bold caresses needed there, though that would have been pure icing!


        1. re: icing – I was wondering about that in relation to Schwarzkopf mentioned below; does the apeal lie in the mere implication? (I guess this ties in with the whole subtext vs. maintext debate and I know I do often enjoy subtext more)


          1. And who wouldn’t (prefer the sub-text, I mean!) I think Kasarova and Alice Coote, and in a different way Susan Graham, in whom I have recently developed an interest, can be quite convincing, but – this could very well be in the eye of the beholder – the genuine article can do more with less. In other cases the bold caresses are required. Goodness, its a tough life!
            I do think that Fassbaender has undeniable magic. I don’t know what it is, but she’s got it. Her eyes just pour it out. Its like fairy dust. Maybe she transmitted a little – just a little of it to Alice Coote.
            I heard that Graham was going to be singing the Marschallin sometime soon, and that might scramble a few brains. She was a good friend of Troyanos – perhaps something can be read into that – who knows! I thought Graham was a very gawky and ‘innocent’ Sesto in the Paris Clemenza, with none of Kasarova’s fire, so its hard to know…. Par for the course in opera , wouldn’t you say?


          2. And lucky are we, to have all these different truths at our fingertips and ears! 😀

            I’ve always thought the same thing about Fassbaender/Coote – she did study with her, so perhaps there has been some magic rhapsodic fairy dust be passed on, in the sound shaping and in the way of carrying oneself, vocally and scenically. Coote has some of that haunting quality, definitely, also in her Lieder singing.
            I hadn’t heard about Graham as Marschallin yet – I could see her as a very gentle, warm Marschallin. The late (wonderful!) Jurinac did the leap, too, and made a convincing Marschallin,also on the warm, gentle side. Very human.
            NEVER heard of any link between Graham and Troyanos – can’t believe next year is already 20 years since the loss of Troyanos.


        2. thank you – you really learn something new every day…

          Interesting, their voice types and performance energies are so different from one another!


  4. A word on behalf of an alternative tradition, exemplified by Kleiber’s castings–Jones, Lott–and archetypally by Schwarzkopf: the soprano regnant, who knows exactly what is going on and what is going to happen, who settles everything, for whom this is only one of the many confused impetuous adolescent mezzos whose lives will be altered by her incomprehensible authority when she takes them into her bed (and take is the operative term) and then turns them loose. Not big brown eyes but sharply humorous bright blue ones. It is the Feldmarschallin who makes a man, and a woman, of Octavian; it would be good to see more of her strength in performances of the Countess, who after all was formerly Rosina, and to hear the opening verses of Dove sono sung in anger. We now return you to your regularly scheduled programming.


    1. thanks for your excellent point, FF! (Especially Lott. Oh, Lott.)
      Are they really mutually exclusive, though?
      I realize there’s a long (male-directed) staging tradition that sees the Marschallin in despair over Octavian being her last lover ever and making her look as if she would need a male admirer to validate her. Nonsense, of course.
      Far from that tradition, I still see her as someone who is honestly struggling with issues (none of them actually being Octavian, but he/she brings them out), and that honesty is only possibly because she has made it that far, knowing that there will be another one and another one, but still being there in that moment. It may be just me, but if she is too aloof, it makes her look as if she is afraid to care, and I think she has moved past that stage already. Fleming’s Bade-Baden performance might not have all of that serenity, but I found it honest and touching, and I read the melancholy to be far more about herself than about Octavian.

      As for the Countess, I am torn I love to see her more Rosina-esque side (without belittling her grief), although my theory would be that she still hasn’t gained the experience and maturity to have the Marschallin’s graceful serenity (so strong, in fact, that she can allow for that bit of honest sadness again) – she might be there in a hypothetical pt. 4 of the Beaumarchais, perhaps? Then again, Dame Kiri was on the elegic side and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t fall for her within the opening bars of “Porgi amor”.
      “Dove sono” is a tough one. I don’t like it whiny – it needs some spine! – but I can’t really imagine it in outright anger (perhaps at a later point in time, I will?). And once more: my first conscious experience was the rather elegic Dame Kiri, and that experience did shape my subsequent listenings.
      Still, the most stunning performance I’ve heard to this day was by Rachael Tovey (in the late 90s, before she went into hochdramatisches Fach), who is the only one I’ve EVER heard taking the first “di cangiar” in the final stretta in a real f and the second in p (!!) which, for me, made the perfect mix of wistful verve, and living the emotion without drowning in it. Of course, it takes a huge amount of technical skill, but she had it.

      And, uh, now back to that regularly scheduled programming *cough* thanks for indulging me, though – I LOVE these discussions and the way they make me rethink or refine my stances!


  5. Oh Christ! A Countess/Marschallin discussion???!!! And just when I´m deperately short of time.

    OK (need to read comments more carefully, hope I´M not repeating anything), but briefly and incoherently, here goes: In love with both ladies, of course, very hard to pull of the right balance. I think Anik has a very good sense of things. Countess can´t quite have the poise of the Marschallin but she does need some Rosinaesque energy mixed in with just the right amount of love, nostalgia, whatever else. Marschallin can´t be in complete control all of the time and good amount of in the moment very genuine vulnerability is absolutely essential in the 1st Act. Regal poise and command are, of course, at a premium in the 3rd but with just the right elegiac touch. See how easy it it to pull this off?

    Jones in the Kleiber my first video Marschallin and absolutely ravashing, perhaps missing a pinch of the needed vulnerability. Kiri wonderful but not quite as great as her Contessa which I was lucky enough to see live pretty late in her career (she had just turned 53, I think). Mia maxima culpa but never loved Flott as much as I should. Like Fleming´s Contessa but her Baden Baden Marschallin IMHO her best assumption, that I´ve seen, by her of either role. Sure there is much more but must dash. Will follow remainder of discussion with great interest.


    1. excellently put, lannoy, thanks for weighing in!

      I wasn’t that over the moon about the Lott Marschallin until I saw her live, that was something else (I might trade you for your Dame K. Contessa though – oh, the envy!). For me, as wel, Dame Kiri was more convincing as Contessa than as Marschallin, although she was a very good Marschallin, too, but there was just something about her Contessa (despite not showing much of the Rosina spunk!)…
      Curiously, I’d also see it the other way around with Fleming – I genuinely loved her 1990s Glyndebourne Contessa, which had a lot of Rosina temper, especially in handling the confrontations with the Count, but her Baden-Baden Marschallin was the more touching portrait for me, really the best I’ve seen of her throughout her repertory (I haven’t seen all)
      Good point about Jones being perhaps too regal (that Ring of Fire and the armor peeking through?), but dear God, was she ever impressive.


      1. must plan my busyness better! 😉 Loved Fleming’s Marschallin from the 2010 Met (which I have seen four times, not counting youtube!), which is multi-layered. She clearly knows things…and is also learning things, all at once. And Renee pulls this off by seeming both in acting and voice to be learning about the Marschallin as she sings her. If that makes sense. I agree w/what someone observed above, that her melancholy is more about herself than about Octavian. I could watch it repeatedly, I always learn something new.

        that, and there are many bold caresses. 😉


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