Octavian (Sophie Koch) presents the rose to Sophie (Lucy Crowe)
We'll have to admit, we are relative neophytes when it comes to the world of opera. However, we'd like to believe we've advanced to the lower intermediate stage after having experienced 4 hours and 25 minutes of Richard Strauss' Der Rosenkavalier at the Royal Opera House yesterday afternoon. The German piece, first performed in 1911, relies more heavily on comedic deception than on an epic obstacle to bring the plot's lovers together.
As one may expect of the Royal Opera, the set, lighting, and costume design were beautifully done as was the music. We laughed as Peter Rose's quixotic Baron Ochs Auf Lerchenau simultaneously chases after his bride-to-be, Sophie (Lucy Crowe), as well as the young Mariandel, who happens to really be Octavian (Sophie Koch) in disguise. We felt somewhat sorry for the Marschallin (Soile Isokoski) who witnesses her lover fall for a more appropriately aged woman. But we did not come away feeling particularly moved.
Although Koch, Crowe, and Isokoski's voices blend together wonderfully at the end of Act III, the tension between the lovers is practically nonexistent. The Marschallin appears to us as an adulterating saint-yes she cheats on her husband with a much younger man, but she will only love him in the 'right way', meaning that she (all too) willingly sets him free when the time comes. Koch is at her best when pretending to be Mariandel but appears awkward when acting as lover to either the Marschallin or Sophie, which makes for an almost cringe-inducing final kiss.
Our favourite performer of the afternoon was Crowe, who gave Sophie the energy, excitement, and silliness the role needed. Another great was Wookyung Kim, who briefly appears during Act I as the Italian Singer (we were sad he didn't come back later).
The end result is a superbly executed production, which, unfortunately, lacks creativity. The overall pieces come together to form a pretty, but not so exciting, picture.
Der Rosenkavalier is playing at the Royal Opera House until 22 December, tickets from £7. (Image by Mike Hoban).