Rosenkavalier. Salzburg Festival 2004. Production: Robert Carsen. Cast: Adrianne Pieczonka (Marschallin), Angelika Kirchschlager (Octavian), Miah Persson (Sophie), Franz Hawlata (Ochs). Conductor: Semyon Bychkov with the Vienna Philharmonics. More details here.
Given the choice between nostalgia or decadence, the traditional Rosenkavalier productions on DVD (see below) chose nostalgia. Robert Carsen chose to depict a decadent society in decay in his 2004 Salzburg Festival production.
First act takes place in the decadently luxurious chamber of the Marschallin and the enourmous stage of the Grosses Festpielhaus is utilized to the maximum as several things take place simultaneously in parallel chambers.
We are in Vienna immediately preceding the outbreak of World War One. Octavian seems only one in a (long) string of lovers of the Marschallin. Ochs is a military man arriving with his regiment of soldiers.
Act two takes place in a large dining room with a dinner table almost spanning the 100 meter width of the stage complete with war paintings on the back wall. Sophie is wiser, not quite the naïve innocent girl reciving Octavian, when he arrives on a live horse to present the silver rose. Ultimately Ochs walks almost straight into Octavian´s sword while his regiment of soldiers harass the household of Sophie´s father in a very entertaining scene.
The third act takes place in a brothel covered in red lights, complete with full frontal nudity and transvestites, definitely more funny than sexy. Octavian is clearly enjoying himself with the girls and make out with Sophie on the bed with the Marschallin walking by. This relationship won´t last. And in the end, we just see the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand setting into motion the chain of events leading to the First World War.
The production was equally loved and hated by audiences in 2004. Clearly my favorite Rosenkavalier production on DVD, not the least due to the simply outstanding cast.
Adrianne Pieczonka´s noble Marschallin shows why Strauss is her true fach and in my opnion she is the best Marschallin on DVD (as well as the best alive) - the nostalgia, the resignation - she seems to capture every facet of this part with her varied acting combined with her superb Straussian voice.
I have simply not heard a finer Octavian since Christa Ludwig than Angelika Kirchschlager - her even, rounded and simply beautiful voice combined with a rather masculine edge to her acting makes her unsurpassed as Octavian.
And Miah Persson´s beautiful Sophie completes this first-rate trio with her clear soprano and entirely convincing acting. Franz Hawlata is more noble than the traditionally ridiculous Ochs, and while he may not excel with his low notes, he more than fulfills Robert Carsen´s demands.
Do the Vienna Philharmonics really need a conductor to play this score, which they´ve probably played more than any other orchestra? Needless to say they played sumptuously capturing the exact right rhythms in the walzes for Semyon Bychkov.
Strongly recommended. However, those preferring a traditional Rosenkavalier may want to look at one of the two Carlos Kleiber-conducted Otto Schenk productions (I´d personally prefer the one from the Vienna State Opera) or the Georg Solti-conducted production from Covent Garden.
Adrianne Pieczonka and Angelika Kirchschlager in Act 1:
The bottom line (scale of 1-5, 3=average):
Adrianne Pieczonka: 5
Angelika Kirchschlager: 5
Miah Persson: 5
Franz Hawlata: 4-5
Robert Carsen´s production: 5
Overall impression: 5