18 August 2012 | TheLittleSongbird
The first ever complete telecast of a Strauss opera, and an interesting one...
This review is based more on the audio CD more than what was going on on screen. What drew me to it in the first place was my adoration for the opera itself(it is my favourite of all Strauss operas) and the cast, you can't go wrong with Erna Berger or Rise Stevens. I have to say I liked this Rosenkavalier very much, though I just wish the sound wasn't as dry or as shallow. The orchestral playing is wonderful, with the soaring legato lines of the final scene especially played with warmth and the characterful parts between Baron Ochs and Annina like Herr Cavalier are that and lush. Fritz Reiner's conducting is very tight yet allows the poetry of the score to come out, so it wasn't an overly rigid reading like it could have been. The singing is mostly exceptional, especially from Eleanor Steber as the Marschallin. Her singing is steady, controlled and as sumptuous as Strauss' orchestration. And she is very authoritative and moving. Maybe she just lacks Elisabeth Schwarzkopf's more leider-like conveyance of the Marschallin's sad and wise words, but this is not a problem at all. Erna Berger was known for her clear vowels and her light, bright, girlish singing. She brings those attributes to Sophie, and it was an overall charming performance. She may not convince exactly as a teen, but considering how treacherous the high tessitura is for the role it is not as big an issue. Rise Stevens was as beautiful a woman as she was in voice. Like Berger she may not convince everybody as a teen, but more than makes up for it by her firm beautiful mezzo and strong impetuous characterisation. Emanuel List is a thoroughly convincing Baron Ochs, even with a tendency to bark his voice is very big and black in tone. He is wonderfully smarmy and self-satisfied overall. The rest of the singing is solid if not as notable. Giuseppe Di Stefano though is interesting as the Italian singer. The interpretation is slightly unduly with a little too much time taken when he takes a breath, especially for someone like Reiner, however it is a pleasure to hear in such beautiful voice early before he took on heavier roles complete with stylish phrasing. You don't hear those trademark pianissimos of his as much here, but this is not really that sort of role, this is not Faust or Cavaradossi but a secondary character role. So all in all, not my favourite Rosenkavalier but very interesting. It is exceptionally sung and musically lovely, but one'd wish that the sound was better. 8/10 Bethany Cox