Der Rosenkavalier

To tell the truth, there’s something about all that Quin-Quin and Bichette stuff between Octavian and the Marschallin that kind of makes me want to stick my finger down my neck and be sick, well, metaphorically and gesturally speaking. And what kind of a young man having an affair with an older, married, woman does not realise the necessary limits of such a relationship? Oh well, I suppose Oktavian was only 17: one must make allowances for age.

Despite all the swoonable bits about the passage of time [“Get a job!” I say, as a cure to such ennui and Schadenwhatever, “or at least a profession!” – possibly a difficult proposition for either Marschallin or Rofrano] and bittersweetness of love relinquished, it’s really all about the Musik. Last night I went to see this and I was not disappointed. It was obviously a gig which had been pencilled in by Mr Hickox for himself – the late season big loss-leader (breaking out, as it were, from Britten). OA provided a cast which was about as good as one could expect from it, with the added attraction of an import, Manfred Hemm, as Ochs. Stephen Bennett was quality casting in two tiny roles. Warwick Fyfe was in fine and even stentorian form as Faninal. There were even the brothers Choo. (I’m concurring with the general chorus of praise for Cheryl Barker, Catherine Carby and Emma Pearson, especially when they sang together.) Andrew Litton replaced RH: he drew a lot out of the orchestra (I probably sat far too close to judge that fairly; I would have preferred a big-orchestra seating configuration as in, eg, Lady M of M, with the woodwind to the fore – it’s cruel to bury them towards the back of the substage part of the pit even if from where I sat there was a distinct viola payoff). I wouldn’t say Litton was a conductor who gave a lot to the singers. At times I felt it was up to them to keep up with and an eye on him rather more than it need have been.

Every ancient member of the company was there, or so it seemed: Anson Austin (my first Italian Tenor), Donald Shanks (ditto Ochs), Robert Allman, Robert Gard. It’d be nice to think that means that the most discerning were out in droves, but it probably also signifies that company rush and its variants were being deployed in force.

It’s nice to see them [the ancients, that is] there, but the apparent failure of Opera Australia to attract more than about 6,000 normally-paid attendances [on my guesstimate – surely not more than 7,000] to a run of 8 performances of Rosenkavalier is a bit depressing. Sydney has always been more of an Italian opera kind of town: Wagner and after (ie, Strauss) have never had a wide appeal.

With Rosenkavalier, the length of the opera (in at 7.00, out at about 11.25) probably deters some. It is not really an opera calculated to appeal to first-time opera goers. But I would have thought that more fifth- or sixth- time goers might have been enticed, including (once the state of the box office became apparent) by appropriately and sufficiently attractively priced offers.

Can’t say that I saw many of those.

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