Welsh National Opera’s production of Der Rosenkavalier is well sung but it’s wide of the comic mark, says DAVID NICHOLSON
Der Rosenkavalier at the Millennium Centre, Cardiff/Touring
THE DEFT touch usually shown by the Welsh National Opera falters a little with its latest production of Richard Strauss’s Der Rosenkavalier.
The company’s comedy muse seems to have been siphoned off by its companion summer opera, Die Fledermaus.
Strauss’s bittersweet work is a tale of love between an older woman, sung with assured grace by Rebecca Evans as the Marschallin, and the much younger Octavian (mezzo soprano Lucia Cervoni).
It opens with the Marschallin and Octavian making vigorous love behind a gauze curtain, watched by the Marschallin as an elderly woman recalling her earlier life.
It almost works. But this, and other very obvious devices employed by director Olivia Fuchs to signify the regrets of ageing expressed by Evans’s Marschallin, intrude.
Sand pours onto the stage throughout, a crude visual symbol of the passage of time, and as it builds up at the back of the stage it pulls the focus away from the action.
The Marschallin tells her lover that he will leave her for a younger woman and dispatches him to plight the troth of her boorish cousin Baron Ochs — hammily sung by Brindley Sherratt — to young heiress Sophie von Faninal.
Of course, Louise Alder’s Sophie and Octavian fall in love. But the impersonations and trickery at the expense of the boorish baron that are meant to provide the comedy fail to materialise.
Sherratt’s Ochs, crudely depicted, looks uncannily like Barry Humphrey’s vulgar Antipodean diplomat Sir Les Patterson and when, at one stage, he wanders on with his shirt protruding through his open flies, the audience rightly ignores the obvious sight gag.
The music and the singing are first rate, with the young soprano Alder demonstrating why she was recently crowned young singer of the year at the International Opera Awards.
But the four long hours drag as the staging and direction provide little to grip the attention. If you have cast-iron buttocks and are unconcerned by a slightly wooden performance in exchange for first-rate singing and playing, then this might be for you.
Runs at the Millennium Centre until June 17 and at Birmingham Hippodrome on July 1, box office: wno.org.uk