Der Rosenkavalier – Bord Gáis Energy Theatre – Review

Der Rosenkavalier – Bord Gáis Energy Theatre – Review
by Gearoid O’Byrne

DER ROSENKAVALIER – Produced by Irish National Opera
05 – 11 March 2023

Photos by Patrick Redmond

Duration: 4 Hours 15 minutes including 2 intervals

Der Rosenkavalier (The Knight of the Rose or The Rose-Bearer), Op. 59, is a comic opera in three acts with a musical score by Richard Strauss (1864 -1949) to an original German libretto by Hugo von Hofmannsthal. Loosely adapted from the novel Les amours du chevalier de Faublas by Louvet de Couvrai and Molière’s comedy Monsieur de Pourceaugnac, it was first performed at the Königliches Opernhaus in Dresden on 26 January 1911 and had its first Irish performance at the Gaiety Theatre, Dublin on the 1st November 1964.

Set in Imperial Vienna in the 1740s, the story is first and foremost about the impermanence of love, finding it, letting it go and accepting the inevitability of change that comes with that. It is also about optimism and fresh starts. It is ironic that the imperial world it describes was swept to an end a mere seven years after the opera’s debut in 1911. The opera sweeps from romantic love and its consequences to comedy and back to romance with a sparkling score from Strauss at the height of his musical powers. With shimmering noble princesses, wicked barons and innocent ingénues, the opera is lush and romantic yet with a strangely modern feel in places that presages great cinematic scores of the future.

This is a demanding and complex opera to stage with a long cast list, a large orchestra and extravagant vocal demands. It is therefore fortunate that we have a trio of top Irish talent in it, namely Paula Murrihy, Celine Byrne and Claudia Boyle in the lead roles of Count Octavian, the Marschallin, Princess of Werdenberg and Sophie von Fannial respectively. They were each in fantastic voice on the night making this performance a rare treat indeed, and one which opera lovers should not miss. They were ably counterbalanced by German Bass Andreas Bauer Kanabas making his INO debut as Baron Ochs of Lerchenau and also Australian baritone Samuel Dale Johnson as Herr von Faninal. Special mention also of the Colombian Tenor César Cortés making his INO debut as the Italian Tenor sent by the Portuguese ambassador serenading the Marschellin with the beautiful “Di rigori armato” in Act 1. Tenor Peter Van Hulle as Valzacchi and mezzo soprano Carolyn Holt make a delightful pair of Italian spies with shifting allegiances. Bass Mark Nathan plays the Notary and soprano Rachel Croash plays Marianne Leizmetzerin, Sophie’s companion. Bass baritone David Howes played the Commissary of Police.

With a setting in Vienna in the 1740s, the set is superb, with ravishing baroque volutes on the walls and ceilings echoing the palaces of Imperial Vienna at its height. The use of colour and lighting throughout was excellent. The Irish National Opera Chorus were in great voice on the night. A special mention to the Irish National Opera Orchestra who performed the score flawlessly. And I couldn’t finish without mentioning to a cherubic Ethan O’Connor playing Cupid, and the bevvy of red-haired little girls in Act 3 who seemed to be from the back catalogue of John Hinde 1960s Irish postcards!

Overall this is a superb performance of Der Rosenkavalier, with three top Irish stars in the lead roles, beautifully staged and with a gloriously performed score. It runs for the week at the Bord Gáis Energy Theatre so go see it if you can.

Categories: Header, Music, Theatre, Theatre Review

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