The Sneering Cavalier

Eva von der Osten 1911

Eva von der Osten, the first Octavian

The Dutch National Opera is celebrating its fiftieth season, which opened with Strauss’s Der Rosenkavalier. This opera also opened their first season in 1965, with a cast that included two great Dutch divas­—fifty-year old Gré Brouwenstijn debuting in the role of the Feldmarschallin and a young Cristina Deutekom as the duenna, Jungfer Marianne Leitmetzerin. Fifty years on, everything comes together in this new production. Marc Albrecht, the conductor, and Jan Philipp Gloger, the director, have conceived a Rosenkavalier for our cynical times. With a tear-streaked smile that curls into a sneer at one corner, it shows how timeless and sophisticated the score and libretto are.

Jan Philipp Gloger possess a great eye for detail, and he’s probably a zealous micromanager. Witness the social distance between the aristocratic Marschallin and the parvenu Faninal summed up in their respective major-domos: Mark Omvlee with polished voice and tip-top grooming versus Morschi Franz done up as a wedding planner in a fondant suit.

On opening night, I sat between two gentlemen. The one on my right could not help shadow-conducting half the score, while the one on my left tried to stem his tears in vain. I found their reactions both touching and pertinent. They sum up why this production is so terrific: it is a musical delight and a theatrical bull’s eye. I felt privileged to be reviewing it for Backtrack. Anyone who has ever declared that opera is irrelevant/dying/dead/embalmed should have been sitting in my place.

Der Rosenkavalier has a big cast and this one is smashing. I was taken to task on Twitter for ignoring Irmgard Vilsmaier as Jungfer Marianne, whose voice was as large as her stage presence. Indeed, because of space limits I also left out Michael Laurenz’s slippery-snakey, well-sung Valzacchi and several others. But never mind my shortcomings. If you can make it to Amsterdam this month, and love Strauss, theatre, good singing, virtuosic playing, or all of the above, try not to miss this.

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