Der Rosenkavalier @ Opernhaus Zürich

was a night of absolutely exceptional singing and acting from everyone. Below is curtain call. That’s the loudest i can scream, wish i can be more brave and stand up and scream and stomp… i stopped video to resume clapping. will revisit for updating content. just simply amazing. ideally i’d prefer to remain seated for 10 min after to reflect… but everyone seemed to rush out so had to put on shoes and ran off.. many many thanks to Purity for the incredible tickets. I and huge VK fan truly enjoyed the show, with very very nice mid/post discussion. sound was just perfectly balanced. view was perfect (except for a big head in front 🙂 ).

Edit [20-jul-2013]


Back, after 1 week stalling .. woke up today at 1500h and thought wow i slept A LOT, then realized phone is still in euro-time :-D. been spending my week looking at Bahamas and Cuba as well as the Aleutian islands. Them tiny islands, if you don’t get  right, ocean circulation goes berserk! But back to Der R, think i can pin point to several key components which made this performance so beautiful, starting with the one that said it all (“Tender Octavian”, stealing from Eyes, btw, it came from this collection). Right. Fantastic seats at level with singers and without a view of the orchestra, which resulted in perfect sound balance. Having been to left corner, right corner, up above, far away balcony, i’d say this seat offers the most complete view at finest details in term of overall visual and sound balance but yet at a safe distance for my imagination to fire on all cylinders ;-). So, onto imagination.

screencapIt seems the singers feed off significantly from the crowd energy, everyone was more alert, active, full of life, comme Pinocchio stepping out of the book into real life. Sophie much more receptive to Octavian’s glances and movements, and thus their chemistry instantly worked! During the moment of spilling out their inner thoughts, i’ve now seen 3 versions, all of which brought quite an insight into how these two chemistry unfolded. First night, Octavian extended hand out slightly, Sophie left hers on the dress, so no connection… which somehow made that first night all quite a rush and an impression it was more Octavian’s neurons that shoot up like run-away fireworks but not quite Sophie’s. 2nd night, Sophie left her hand out, to which Octavian tenderly grabbed (~ dvd’s version)… so it was more mutual.. yet still something was missing… 3rd night, Sophie had her hand in, Octavian sent hers (his) out probing… no hand, withdrew.. then Sophie sent hers out, Octavian tried 2nd time, contact made, Sophie _quickly_ withdrew hers (!), Octavian’s hand retreated… to the end of inner thought they spilled, Sophie extended her hand second time, reaching all the way across and decisively grabbed hold of Octavian! quite charming i have to say. works very well into the setting.. and gives a hint she’s a lot more than just the timid shying away avoiding eye contact type seen in previous 2 editions… and we all know how much this Octavian loves to oblige…

screencap2i was mentally getting ready for the sad ending and almost forgot about the comedy part, until VK showed up in that lovely dress and adddddorable crescent-moon bando… may be i should look for one. She was having an absolute ball with this scene, playing a little with the audience almost, everyone loved it. Alfred Muff, i really enjoyed both his acting and singing. VERY believable in all performances, never over the top. Both he and VK have lots of singing and acting in all 3 acts and their chemistry is just fantastic to watch.

So, onto the singing… this opera is pretty intensive i’d say… one has to be relaxed, settled, ready for 4 hours of blasting… the music is quite loud, lots of ups and downs, HORNS and DRUMS!! i really wonder why Strauss put many horns and drums parallel with a single human voice. Am curious how rewarding it is to sing this (since i know nothing about voice), but to have brief moments of voice featuring surrounded by almost all out blasting passing the orchestra 80% of time can be super duper tiring. And they did an amazing job of getting their voice heard along with all the movings and acting. So, the voice featuring bit. Sophie during the rose presentation: Rachel Harnisch has a very nice warm voice. I love her phrasing the best in this last performance. You know this super duper high note right after she received the rose? Not sure how it’s supposed to be done, but i really love it when it arrives just a bit slow and rising up, like cloud touching the foot of the mountain and ascending.. in some occasions, it’s attacked a bit too harsh (think eagles flying in crashing landing) and didn’t sound as beautiful to my ears (i remember this was somewhat the version Patrizia Ciofi gave in san diego…). Anyhow, the ascent then set up the entire orchestra, music, mood, transcending, breathtaking. Then the duet with (optional) hand exchange as detailed above. Both characters have together another duet in this act, just after Octavian promised to help her as long as she promised to remain who she is… I tried hard to listen to them but the orchestra is realllly loud, whhhhyyy??? and is it really a fault of the orchestra or just that there’re way too many instruments? No clue.

matlabcoolThe Feldmarschallin: She’s singing in the first and last act. The last act, i really love Nina Stemme’s singing. waaay heart breaking. just before the trio is of course the re-intro of the dark tune (oboe), then the voice took over and made an ascent, absolutely goose-bump inducing. So much bitterness as well, woooahhh (could also be my imagination :-)). but backtracking to the first act, i know why i don’t connect with her monologue: it always sounded a bit cool and collected. If i don’t know what the setting is, i wouldn’t know she’s in such a mood. This is just the  consistency (defn: [n] degree of density, firmness, or viscosity) of the tone. Here, i found an image from a google search of matlab “cool” colormap. That oval, the mood and tone are constrained within that colorscale instead of covering the full rainbow of emotion. I guess it works for others who have more life experience but within my limited well, that spectrum doesn’t quite cover my imagination of the emotional expression of the mood. So there you have it :-).

So, onto the last duet. one shed tears internally.  light orchestra, soft singing, heavenly voice and melody, bitter-sweet to such an emotional ride, no happy ending (in my mind…), woaaaahh.  And with curtain call, it’s also a wrap to VK’s Octavian.   Can i now put together a small list of things i’d like to hear her live in? Carmen, Azucena, Sesto (no hope, woooah), Marguerite, anything Händel/baroque… still quite hung up on Wagner and Strauss…



About thả diều
writing-challenged opera-addict

14 Responses to Der Rosenkavalier @ Opernhaus Zürich

  1. Eyesometric says:

    Thank you SO much for posting this so promptly,Dr T. It is fabulous to share your joy and excitement & if ever a fan deserved the ultimate VK experience it is you because of the phenomenal efforts you make to be there & your total generosity in sharing. We salute you!

    • thả diều says:

      thank Eyes :-), and hallo everyone. off to Zürich center i go for touring on gorgeous weather day. saw a vietnamese restaurant on my path, will try… and return later tonight to write up report :-).

  2. Tove S says:

    I envy you… The opening night when I was there feels so long ago, I can barely remember…

  3. jcmwee says:


  4. Eyesometric says:

    I love your observations in the edit. I’m glad it’s not just me who notices minute detail of production, especially choreography, movement and costuming. I noticed that the VK hair this time seemed softer and less dark/styled than the video? Regarding that pianissimo top note – I always think of Barbara Bonney at that point!

  5. Eyesometric says:

    If and when you have time it’s all here …

    My ideal but impossible casting – VK, BB, AH

    • Eyesometric says:

      Oh dear. That was supposed to be a link not a 3 hour video. Sorry!

      • thả diều says:

        that’s ok. but it seems to happen for you often, so i uploaded instruction here how to make a link instead of big video :-). but for BB, we leave the video as is above. i *did* think about VK and AH in zürich, but wasn’t sure which Sophie… so naturally i had Marlin Hartelius in with the line up.

  6. catatsea says:

    Fantastic update thanks An. Love the breakdown of the hand work… ah I do love a nice bit of obsessively detailed observation, esp. where VK is concerned 🙂

  7. thả diều says:

    ahem. i had a dream last night… a rather interesting one.. given that i spent the last full week listening to many things but not Der R… that i was in yet another audience in another VK’s class… and was picked as a volunteer to sing the rose representation… with VK playing the role of Sophie… there she was trying to get me started and i kept thinking “Sh*t this is high, wooow, it’s high.. i can’t reach it…” all the while some kind of screeching sound came out of throat… 😉

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