[White Shirts in violet leather as an anniversary gift? – Sophie Koch (Octavian) and Krassimira Stoyanova (Marschallin) in Strauss’ “Rosenkavalier”, Salzburg 2014. – Photo Credit: the one and only Monika Rittershaus for Salzburger Festspiele]
So, it’s Strauss year. Which means Salzburg had to put on at least one big Strauss production, and nothing sells better than “Rosenkavalier”. To be on the safe side, the staging is done by Harry Kupfer, which left me a bit puzzled – I like Kupfer’s 1980s work on Wagner and others as much as anyone, but he’s neither the super-safe fossile bank (Otti Schenk, I am looking at you), nor anything challenging-yet-true-to-text/form of recent years (Kratzer, Kusej, Konwitschny, Wieler,…).
My favorite thing so far about this production – other than Sophie Koch in lots of leather and white shirts – is the stage by Hans Schavernoch, particularly his photo backgrounds that conjure up a nostalgic, bittersweet 1911 Vienna: the opening scene offers a view of Michaelerpatz right in front of the Hofburg and Mohammed the chaufer waits for Sophie and Octavian in the Prater at dawn, though my favorite bit might be the employ of the Zentralfriedhof for the 3rd Act masquerade, aided by mausoleoum sets on stage.
I am usually in favor of “time of composition” staging updates since operas always say a lot more about the time in which they were written than about the time they are presumably taking place in. And Vienna – an romanticized, invented Vienna – is such an intricate part of “Rosenkavalier” that it makes sense to set the mood via the city.
Here, it feels both somber and nostalgic, faded and threatening, something lost without ever having been had. It’s somewhat eerie, and it’s beautiful, and I find that it works very well, particularly for acts I and III. The protagonists look lost and cold, often isolated.
As for the cast, I still wish I loved Sophie Koch more – because, on all accounts, I should: there is nothing I find at fault with her Octavian, I just don’t really click with her. But I shall keep trying. Krassimira Stoyanova, I’ve only ever known as a Verdi singer. I’ve since learned that she did quite a few Contessas back in the day (no wait – that came out wrong) and started more from a lyrical perspective, but I really hope that they will broadcast this in some way because I cannot imagine her Marschallin (not that I think that it won’t be good – I just hear her name and and my brain starts throwing Verdi at me. Gloriously sung Verdi, but no Strauss). The third lady on board is Mojca Erdmann as Sophie, who won Salzburg in 2010 already in Rihm’s “Dionysos”.
Let me know if you see a broadcast link somewhere – and meanwhile, enjoy some extensive hi-res Monika Rittershaus footage on this production on the Festspiele website.