Der Rosenkavalier review at Glyndebourne, Lewes – ‘a superb revival’
When new in 2014, Richard Jones’ production was deemed radical. It certainly departs from the traditional mid-18th-century setting of Strauss’s romantic comedy, replacing it with the period of the work’s premiere (1911), including a silent appearance by Sigmund Freud listening to the Marschallin’s monologue as if she were one of his patients.
Yet more important than these external trappings – their quirkiness part of their post-modern sensibility – is the sheer quality of the sentient, minutely observed staging, recreated for this revival by Sarah Fahie and brilliantly lit by Nigel Pashley. The ambivalent emotional core of the piece is repeatedly exposed, and even its profoundly affecting nostalgia, if you like, itself viewed nostalgically.
The evening is also a testament to the strength of Glyndebourne’s casting, with all the major roles performed to a standard it would be hard to match and nigh-on impossible to beat: Rachel Willis-Sorensen’s astutely articulate lyricism gives her Marschallin a breadth of humanity perfectly balanced by Kate Lindsey’s gauche and impulsive Octavian. Elizabeth Sutphen’s shy yet eager Sophie is barely kept in line by Michael Kraus’ sharply realised, social-climbing father Faninal.
Secondary roles are neatly dovetailed into the overall structure, and the wider ensemble – there are 44 individual artists named in the programme – sketched in with the finest of brushes.
Even Rosenkavalier addicts might admit, however, that the piece can occasionally seem overlong, with stretches of the second and third acts tending to dip in quality.
Not here, due to the comprehensive excellence of Brindley Sherratt’s Ochs – a tour-de-force of comic acting defined through masterly singing – and equally to conductor Robin Ticciati’s ability to highlight the infinitesimal detail of Strauss’s writing without sacrificing the broader picture.
On evenings like this, the London Philharmonic reasserts its credentials as one of the world’s great opera orchestras.