A fashion show of the weird and wonderful.
It's clear that this is a far more glamorous affair than the English equivalent Glyndbourne and Garsington, what with the flashes of cameras, glinting of diamonds and glittering dresses, I regretted not bringing my sunglasses.
At 5.00pm the crowds began to gather, the opera goers sipping their champagne on one side and curious onlookers on the other hoping to catch a glimpse of a celebrity or other. I was lucky enough to avoid this by sitting in the Hotel Sacher comfortably enjoying champagne and canapés with our generous hosts. Shortly before 6.00pm the bell rang and the crowd began to flock in, excited for what Harry Kupfer and Franz Welser-Möst had in store for us.
Naturally for every new production of an opera intrigue runs high on the first night, but even more so this evening with the extra hour or so of music added to the usual opera (which is why it started at 6.00 rather than the more usual 7.00pm).
I was anxious before the performance for a myriad of reasons. Firstly, this would be my first time seeing Rosenkavalier. Every new opera is exciting for me, but I was in part named after the "Marschallin" Marie-Theres of this piece - I was rather intrigued to meet her. Also, the idea that I, along with everyone in the audience with me, would be the first to see this production had something exciting about it. No reviews yet as the critics would be seeing it the same time as me.
Out into the sunshine in front on the Festspielhaus again, a bottle of champagne in hand and I was delighted to see almost all of our party pull cigarettes out of various pockets or clutches.
This is where the Austrians and Germans vary quite a bit. The "Austrain charm" as my father refers to it, revels in the contrast of the fine and blunt. An open-hearted familiar charm that seems less reserved than that of the English (not difficult) and German. Well-dressed, well-spoken, well-mannered but also perfectly happy to throw caution to the winds through the use of a few choice swear words woven in a perfectly eloquent sentence - just my cup of tea.
Example would be us in our black tie, champagne bottle for the group and being our own waiters. Champagne glass in one hand, "fag" in the other. (Naturally the gentlemen were pouring the champagne and lighting the ladies' cigarettes.) Absolutely no pretence - I love it! I now understand why my mother camouflages the fact that she's German by wearing one of her many dirndls as soon as she lands on Austrian soil.
- Back inside -
I can't give as educated a review as I would like to, this being my first time seeing this particular opera. To me, a good knowledge and appreciation of opera takes a lot of exposure to build up, much like wine. I would not pretend to be a wine connoisseur so I will do the name for Opera. At 22, although having seen quite a few operas for my age, I would say I am still in my formative year of becoming an aficionado. (And I am also of the opinion that a critic should be aware of his or her possible shortcomings or in-expertise before commenting on others - that is not to say at all that that should keep you quiet, but a bit of humility never went amiss.)
I thought it was amazing, the singing and the acting alike. Some were able to act better than others, but that was easily forgiven by the quality of their voice. I was also blown away by the very simplistic but excellent production - a relatively plain stage with beautiful photography to set the scene across the entire backdrop.
Here are a few pictures I nabbed from the Salzburger Nachrichten.
Opening scene: The "old" Marie-Theres (around 30 years old) in bed with her young love Octavia
Baron Ochs arrives and informs his cousin Marie-Theres of his upcoming engagement to Sophie as well as his "past time of skirt chasing"
Act 2: We meet Sophie, Och's future wife
As custom dictates, Octavian, The Rosenkavalier (Knight of the Rose), is chosen by Ochs to hand over the silver engagement rose on Ochs' behalf.
Only Octavian and Sophie fall in love at first sight.
Sophie meets her husband-to-be...
Octavian, disgusted by Ochs' behaviour, challenges him to a duel
Which he easily wins
Unfortunately there were no picture of this, so you'll have to deal with my dry synopsis without picture aids - we all have to grow up at some point.
Octavian, disguised as the maid "Mariandel" attempts to play a trick on Ochs.
The two are in a private room of an inn, where Ochs attempts to seduced a seemingly all-too-willing Mariandel. Ochs thinks he is going crazy as strange creatures pop out from under the bed and doors (all fellow conspirators of Octavian/Mariandel) as well as street urchins running in shouting "Papa, Papa!".
Suddenly the police bursts in catching Baron Ochs in this very sticky situation. He first claims Mariandel is Sophie to save from any embarrassment, then that she is in fact Mariandel and that she is his ward. Sophie is summoned to clear her name and the confusion and asks Ochs to leave her. Ochs attempts to assert his claim on Sophie just as the Marschallin Marie-Theres arrives. Marie-Theres orders him to leave gracefully, salvaging what little is left of his dignity.
The emotional climax with the heartrendingly beautiful trio between Octavian, Marie-There and Sophie. Octavian hesitates between the two women and the Marschallin gracefully releases Octavian, encouraging him to follow his heart and love Sophie.
A beautiful ending that was topped off beautifully in this production with a huge white Roll old-timer rolling across the stage to pick up the Marshallin as she takes one last look over her shoulder at Octavian and rolls out.
Salzburger Nachrichten review here