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Der Rosenkavalier review at Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff – ‘a stellar cast’

Lucia Cervoni and Rebecca Evans in the WNO Der Rosenkavalier. Photo: Bill Cooper Lucia Cervoni and Rebecca Evans in the WNO Der Rosenkavalier. Photo: Bill Cooper
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Premiered in 1911, Der Rosenkavalier was a remarkable stylistic volte-face by Richard Strauss, eschewing previous dissonant extremes for a sumptuous romance steeped in Mozartian comic entanglements and Viennese waltz. Yet modernist anxieties abound in the very juxtaposition of such 18th- and 19th-century motifs within a quasi-parodistic, 20th-century frame.

Not least is the sense of dislocated time which, in director Olivia Fuchs’ fin de siecle new production for Welsh National Opera, revolves around the Marschallin’s poignant response to growing older. It’s a triumphant role debut for soprano Rebecca Evans; shadowed by her future, elderly self (Margaret Baiton) as she relinquishes with searing ambivalence her young lover Octavian (an impetuous Lucia Cervoni) to the virginal Sophie (a delightfully forthright Louise Alder).

Indeed, it’s the stellar cast more than the theatrical conceit – or even the assured playing of the WNO orchestra, which has further Straussian opulence to come under conductor Tomas Hanus – that makes this opera a must-see. While Fuchs risks over-playing a sands of time theme, it’s the lecherous arrogance of Baren Ochs (a superb Brindley Sherratt) that reveals Habsburg entitlement to be moribund – even ersatz.

Finally it’s the bourgeois Faninal (a clear-voiced Adrian Clarke) who joins the aristocratic Marschallin in giving way to the future, as the silver rose brings its true giver and receiver together; a theme more Magic Flute than Marriage of Figaro – and serious despite the equally valid assertion, via Hofmannsthal’s libretto, that the opera is “a Viennese masquerade – that’s all.”

Of course the real, tragic irony – suggested by Fuchs through video backdrop and more – is that the First World War would soon catapult the entire society into crisis.

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A stellar cast support Rebecca Evans’ triumphant debut as Strauss’ Marschallin