“The best of the best assembled on stage” wrote Germany’s leading newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung after the premiere of Richard Strauss’ Der Rosenkavalier at the Festspielhaus Baden-Baden. Indeed, it would be hard to find a more ideal cast for this late-Romantic Rococo pastiche anywhere in the world. As the Marschallin, stellar soprano Renée Fleming uses her velvety tones and autumnal shadings to complement the youthfully lyrical and dynamic voice of Sophie Koch as her young lover Octavian.
Diana Damrau’s Sophie enhances the trio’s sparkle with her ethereal high notes. Next to Franz Hawlata as a swaggering Baron Ochs and the always impressive Franz Grundheber as Faninal, the Baden-Baden production rounds off its male leads with international tenor star Jonas Kaufmann as the “Italian Singer.”
Leading his Münchner Philharmoniker, acclaimed Romantic specialist Christian Thielemann revels in Strauss’s lustrous melancholy and obtains a rarely heard transparency from the brass and woodwinds. Bolstered by these solid orchestral underpinnings, Herbert Wernicke’s Salzburg Festival production – which also scored a great success at Paris’ Opéra de la Bastille – has been polished and trimmed here by Alejandro Stadler. It places the cast of fabulous singers in a sumptuous setting of timeless elegance dominated by a play of mirrors reflecting the shifting emotions of the lead trio.