Richard, Barbara, and I saw a new production of Richard Strauss's *Der Rosenkavalier* at the Met on 4/21/17. Richard and I saw the Met's previous production in 2010 - - it was probably their oldest production (1969) that was still in frequent use. The only comparable production I can think of was the Zefferelli *Cav/Pag* from 1970. Both those old productions have been replaced now.
The old production was ornate and impressive, but rather musty. The new production moves the action from 18th century Vienna to 1910 Vienna, when the opera had its debut. I liked the new setting, but my friend Michael Klitsch made the valid point that you would not have an arranged marriage in 1910, where the bride never lays eyes on the groom until the engagement is announced. I wasn't bothered by that, and found a lot to like about the production, especially the first act. Richard thought director Robert Carsen made too much out of the naughty aspects of the story, but that didn't bother me either.
What bothered me was the very ending. The last one to two minutes of the opera featured a guy walking around drunk and what I interpreted as a reference to World War I. It was very confusing and ended the show on a sour note.
Conductor Sebastian Weigle got things off to a very exciting start, the orchestra played with verve and sweep, the brass in particular playing with a lot of thrust. But they also played with taste and an entirely appropriate mushiness. Is the Met Orchestra the best opera orchestra in the world?
The singers were all first class. Mezzo Elina Garanča played Oktavian, the handsome young man. She sounded gorgeous and looked a dream, her aristocratic bearing was sublime. Soprano Renee Fleming (aka America's Soprano) has had a long and extraordinary career at the Met and elsewhere and has said that this production is her farewell to staged opera. Well, we've fallen for that before. I think she's retiring at the right time - - her voice sounds good but clearly not nearly as creamy or full-bodied as it once was. The Marschallin is a favorite role for a farewell. It's not a whole lot of singing and doesn't require a whole lot of voice. Fleming acted the role with dignity and warmth.
Richard and I heard soprano Erin Morley in a Handel opera at Carnegie Hall a couple of years ago and she blew me away. This was my first time hearing her in a major role at the Met, and she was terrific. Beautiful, sparkling, crystal-clear voice, and a bright, sincere presence onstage. The role of Sophie runs the risk of being too cute, and she didn't go anywhere near that, and I thank her. My old boyfriend Günther Groissböck played the oaf, Baron Ochs, and he was great. He's generally played as a gross, fat, old codger, and I thought it would have been a waste to have Groissböck padded and made gross - - they didn't go that direction, he was smooth yet disgusting, a perfect portrait of a man of privilege who takes what he wants without any thought of harming others. Are the three of us the only people who thought of a certain Mr. Trump?
But let's not talk about him. Let's end with a dreamy performance of the high point of the opera, the trio for the three ladies near the end. This is from the James Levine Gala in 1996: Renee Fleming, Heidi Grant Murphy, and Anne Sophie von Otter. Levine in the pit, natch.