White Shirt Monday: The Mothership

Rosenkavalier_Koch_Stoyanova_c_Monika_Rittershaus-slzbrg14[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.

21 thoughts on “White Shirt Monday: The Mothership”

  1. Love your reviews!!!
    I saw Rosenkavalier in Munich this year and have to say I left during the break. It was all so stuffy and felt like a Grandma production – that was Otti Schenk’s baby I think.

    I’m still a bit of a newby in the Opera world – so hope I wasn’t offending anybody ….


        1. allow me to cite anik’s post here… right.. i should like to think if she were singing you would have never left your spot, regardless of staging 😉 she’s singing this role in dresden in december… and i seriously considering crossing atlantic again…


          1. Dresden – hmmm. Always wanted to go. Sort of intrigued now … 😉
            Now that I know Ms Harteros I think you might be right of me not have left …


          2. it’s with Sophie Koch, too. And while the staging (Bechtholf, I believe?) isn’t the most innovative, it’s solid. Definitely an evening well spent, even without Harteros. But with Harteros? Planeboardingly good.


          1. Neat!!
            (also, I’d take her over Johann Wolfgang there any day. Unless there’s a poetry contest. Then again, FF writes all the poetry we need, doesn’t she?)


        2. ps2- you lost me Anik, though anything related to poetry is a lost for me (unless it’s vietnamese communist poems which we were made to memorize by heart..), but i take ms. harteros for all poetry in the world 😉


          1. the gentleman portrayed next to Harteros looks a lot like the most famous of German poets/writers, J.W. von Goethe, that’s all..
            And as for poetry, I stick with our own Fitz Fulke who wrote such a lovely tribute to the Octavian in the post above 😉


    1. thank you, listening to it as I type!
      The synopsis read was definitely written by Otti Schenk… but everything improves once we get to the music.
      Enjoying the orchestra so far, crisp and clear – Koch has fantastic diction. More vibrato than in the Baden-Baden recording, some edges, but really enjoying her gleaming hight notes.
      I am really surprised by Stoyanova, who sounds very Straussian and elegant, lyrical. There have only been wee instances of middle register where I even remembered her Verdi, but I’m still on early Act I, so let’s see how it progresses. Not that I would mind an Italianate Marschallin for a change, it might work.
      As for Ochs, I fear that Glyndebourne has blinded me to all others for the moment.


      1. just done all 3 acts on my end, i quite love Stoyanova, esp. the beginning of the trio, super goosebump inducing!! (i must confess for someone not understand german and/or strauss music this opera can be taxing!)


        1. I think it can even be taxing when understanding German.

          Not yet at the trio, but very much enjoying Stoyanova’s Time Monologue right now. 🙂


  2. I rather liked Erdmann’s Sophie in Munich in March (maybe it’s just me, but I didn’t find it stuffy.) however I’m with anik on Ochs, the Glyndebourne Ochs swept even peter rose aside. If I’m not wrong, the Vienna schenk is even stuffier than the Munich Schenk! Isn’t Brigitte supposed to be bringing us a spanking new production next year?


    1. oh – where?

      I agree with Laura – the Munich production is Jürgen Rose, I think, which is not as dusty-stuffy as the Vienna one, which is Schenk through and through.

      And I *did* enjoy the Munich one a few times, but mostly for singers (Lott and Sindram, among them).


  3. Saw the production. Anik hits it squarely on the head in pretty much all aspects of her forecast. Have ALWAYS had the same problem with Koch, going on 16 years now. Really good, really like her, think she deserves the career she’s had. And yet…just not as enthusiastic as I think I should be.

    Harteros is, OF COURSE, the current queen of the Princesses von Werdenburg and an complete no brainer for a first choice in any major production. Query why this was not the case here? She’s scheduled for Baden Baden, Stemme was the original MT here. Don’t know.

    That having been said, LOVE Stoyanova, think she might be the current 2nd best choice (actually am inclined to be almost unequivocal about this). Have liked her in pretty much everything but having seen her a number of times at the Met but her Vienna Countess (in 2008) was a revelation (and actually quite a bit better than her Met Donna Anna the previous month, a performance that received almost universally hyper-adulatory but imho-and I went to 3 performances-somewhat excessive reviews).

    For all that, I was completely in sympathy with Anik in having trouble imagining her Marschalli-doubting in particular wether she had the indispensable allure necessary for greatness in the role. Question answered – and HOW!!!!! (Also love the fact that she can be so magnificent – for me at least – in every aspect of the role and still qualify as an “Older Woman”. The 1st Marschallin I saw in the theater – Metchild Gessendorf – was more than 10 years older than my mom! – now, in the rather prepossessing shape of Kate Royal, they’re younger than ME:-()


    1. thank you for generously sharing your impression, cavalier.
      I fully agree on Stoyanova after having heard the whole evening. Looking over her Vienna repertory over the years, I don’t even know why much for her reputation outside Austria is tied so much to heavier Verdi?
      She shares a repertory with Harteros, but while I would usually describe Harteros as coming from a lyrical core, Stoyanova has more metal, more power – there were bits (ordering aorund Ochs or Octavian in Act 1) where there was a bit if Italianate metal audible (you had to look for it, though), but it was just a little bit of welcome flavor and did not take away from the Marschallin tone at all.
      And yes, she really has that – and I don’t mean the diction, but the way of delivery. Perhaps also a side effect of many years in Vienna?
      After this MT, I am much more interested in her Contessa than in her Donna Anna.

      (those Werdenbergs sure keep getting younger, don’t htey? . And that is even with adjusting the Strauss/Hofmannsthal taxing of 32 to a more 2000s-likely 42 or 52…)


      1. There IS a lot of crossover between the two and, in my experience at least, a tendency to succeed in the same roles. Both rather disappointing as DA (excellent by any standard measure, well sung, just did not seem an ideal fit) terrific but just not to the manner born (for worse or BETTER) as Violetta. Sensational as the Countess, Desdemona, Elisabetta, Marschallin.

        And couldn’t agree more with your description of the respective vocal character of each. Just goes to show, there is more than one to skin a cat* – and a beautiful way at that. 🙂

        *Okay, there’s a lot wrong with that. a) I like cats, crucially b) obviously both sound just about as far from a strangled cat as you can imagine, but you know what I mean. 😉


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