Melbourne Opera's Der Rosenkavalier a hoot
Until 17th August 2018
Melbourne Opera’s sparkling new production of Richard Strauss’ bittersweet comedy, Der Rosenkavalier (The Knight of the Rose), is an inventive hoot made special by the detail and life of Tama Matheson’s direction.
Matheson mines the comic crutch and romantic heart of the work superbly.
The aristocratic Marschallin, in a loveless marriage, keeps a young lover, Octavian. Her cousin Ochs’ impending marriage to Sophie will secure his fortune. When Octavian, as the Rose Knight, presents the ‘customary’ silver rose to Sophie in a serendipitous encounter, the dominoes fall.
It turns out that a certain world leader with a bad blond hairdo and inflated ego slips into Strauss’ work with utmost ease as Baron Ochs. He shamelessly parades lechery, vulgarity, greed and self-entitlement through Strauss’ biting bittersweet comedy. Gratefully, through clever scheming, they don’t win over a love that blooms mutually.
Witty design inspired but unrestricted by its 1740s setting is a visual bonus — Christina Logan-Bell (sets), Lucy Wilkins (costumes) and Lucy Birkinshaw (lighting).
It could never have been pulled off so enthrallingly without four strong leads led by the comic charge of a marvellously interpreted Ochs by commanding bass Daniel Sumegi. Looking unrecognisable but convincing in form as our imbecile caricature, Sumegi’s deliciously throaty and meaty strength burst forth on opening night.
It was a rare opportunity to see the bass voice own centre stage.
Strauss’ melting melodic lines, however, were assigned to three surrounding sopranos. Lee Abrahmsen was refined and radiant as the Marschallin. Ruby rich in voice and gold stars for such deeply planted kisses. Danielle Calder wore the pants charmingly as Octavian and endeared in the disguise as the chambermaid, girl-as-boy-as-girl, “Mariandel”. Together with Anna Voshege, who brought a nightingale’s dulcet finery to Sophie, the opera’s famous trio received the poignancy it deserves.
Under conductor David Kram, the musical mojo took ravishing flight after a rickety Act 1 while talent and teamwork were abundant in supporting roles, chorus and in the pit. You could say that, in the end, it all came up trumps!