Written a mere few years after the bleeding-edge operas Salome and Elektra, Richard Strauss’ Der Rosenkavalier hearkens back to 18th-century Vienna, regressing in musical language to a retrenchment in an unabashedly tonal idiom and portraying an altogether different world. The opera’s highlights include the Presentation of the Rose in Act 2 and the trio in the third act, but a strong performance delights all around. And delight it did. Kirill Petrenko’s second night at Carnegie Hall packed a punch as the orchestra of the Bayerische Staatsoper delved deep into Strauss’ score, supporting an impressive cast of singers.
If the orchestra had been merely competent up to this point, it truly outdid itself in the prelude to the third act as the nimble and agile gymnastics of the brass, woodwinds, and strings beckoned the scene to life absent of any staging whatsoever. Ochs’ tryst with Mariandel proceeded with fervor as the phantom faces flashed from the windows to haunt him. The combination of Brower’s wild gesticulations and the Petrenko’s calculated bursts of sound created a mise-en-scène as effective as a true staging, and this increased further as various intruders barged in on the tryst. Ochs’ shameful exit from the stage was soon forgotten as Sophie, the Marschallin, and Octavian sang the glorious trio. The concluding “dich hab’ ich lieb” soared, resonating through the hall, a powerful climax to the complicated emotional and musical tension. The final duet and orchestral coda followed in quick succession, and Petrenko could hardly lower his hands before thunderous applause erupted. A memorable night of brilliant orchestral playing, singing and acting.