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Der Rosenkavalier (Op. 59) (The Knight of the Rose) is a comic opera in three acts by Richard Strauss to an original German libretto by Hugo von Hofmannsthal. It is loosely adapted from the novel Les amours du chevalier de Faublas by Louvet de Couvrai and Molière’s comedy Monsieur de Pourceaugnac. It was first performed at the Königliches Opernhausmarker in Dresdenmarker on 26 January 1911 under the direction of Max Reinhardt. Until the premiere, the working title was Ochs von Lerchenau. (The choice of the name Ochs is not accidental, for in German Ochs is translated as ox, which depicts the character of the Baron throughout the opera.)

The opera has four main characters: the aristocratic Marschallin, her very young lover Octavian Rofrano, her coarse, skirt-chasing country cousin Baron Ochs, and his young prospective fiancée Sophie, the lovely daughter of a rich Viennese bourgeois. Baron Ochs, having arranged with Sophie's father Faninal to combine his noble rank with Faninal's money by marrying Sophie, asks the Marschallin to suggest an appropriate young man to be his Knight of the Rose, who will present a silver rose to Sophie on his behalf as a traditional symbol of courtship. She recommends Octavian. When Octavian delivers the rose, he and Sophie fall in love on sight, and must figure out how to prevent Baron Ochs from marrying Sophie. They accomplish this in a comedy of errors that is smoothed over with the help of the Marschallin.

There are many recordings of the opera, and it is regularly performed.

Performance history

Premiere

Der Rosenkavalier premiered in 1911 in Dresden under the baton of Ernst von Schuch who had previously conducted the premieres of Strauss's Feuersnot, Salome and Elektra, Georg Toller was originally supposed to produce the production, but he backed out and was replaced by Max Reinhardt. The event was a pinacle in the career of soprano Margarethe Siems (Strauss’s first Chrysothemis) who portrayed the Marschallin.

The reaction to the 1911 premiere was nothing short of triumphant. The opera was a complete success with the public and was a great financial boon for the house; it is reported that at the time of the première, tickets were sold out almost immediately. The response from music critics was overall very positive, although some responded negatively to Strauss's use of waltzes, a music form out of fashion at that present moment. Despite this, the opera became one of the composer's most popular works during his lifetime and the opera remains a part of the standard repertory today.

International success

Der Rosenkavalier quickly became an important part of the international opera repertory. Less than two months after its premiere, the work was performed for the first time in Italy at La Scalamarker on 1 March 1911 using an Italian translation . The cast, led by conductor Tullio Serafin, included Lucrezia Bori as Octavian, Ines Maria Ferraris as Sophie, and Pavel Ludikar as Baron Ochs. The opera's Austrian premiere was given by the Vienna State Operamarker on the following 8 April under the baton of Schuch with Marie Gutheil-Schoder as Octavian, and Richard Mayr as Baron Ochs. The work reached the Teatro Costanzi in Rome seven months later on 14 November with Egisto Tango conducting Hariclea Darclée as the Marschallin and Conchita Supervia as Octavian.

The United Kingdom premiere of Der Rosenkavalier occurred at the Royal Opera Housemarker in London on 29 January 1913. Thomas Beecham conducted the performance whose cast included Margarethe Siems as the Marschallin. The United States premiere took place at the Metropolitan Opera on the following 9 December in a production conducted by Alfred Hertz. The cast included Frieda Hempel as the Marschallin, Margarethe Arndt-Ober as Octavian, and Elisabeth Schumann as Marianna. A number of Italian theatres produced the work for the first time in the 1920s, including the Teatro Lirico Giuseppe Verdimarker (1922), Teatro Regio di Torinomarker (1923), Teatro di San Carlomarker (1925), and the Teatro Carlo Felicemarker (1926) among others.

Der Rosenkavalier reached Monaco on 21 March 1926 when it was performed by the Opéra de Monte-Carlo at the Salle Garnier in a French translation. The performance starred Gabrielle Ritter-Ciampi as the Marschallin and Vanni Marcoux as Faninal. The French premiere came the following year at the Palais Garniermarker in Paris on 11 February 1927 with conductor Philippe Gaubert. The cast included , Germaine Lubin as Octavian. Brussels heard the work for the first time at La Monnaiemarker on 15 December 1927 with Clara Clairbert as Sophie.

The Salzburg Festival mounted Der Rosenkavalier for the first time on 12 August 1929 in a production conducted by Clemens Krauss. The cast included Lotte Lehmann as the Marschallin and Marta Fuchs as Annina. Other first productions at notable houses, opera festivals, and music ensembles include: Teatro Massimomarker (5 March 1932), Philadelphia Orchestra (30 November 1934), San Francisco Opera (16 October 1940), Philadelphia Opera Company (2 December 1941), Maggio Musicale Fiorentino (2 May 1942), La Fenicemarker (20 April 1943), Festival dei Due Mondi (19 June 1964), Teatro Comunale di Bologna (19 November 1965), Lyric Opera of Chicago (25 September 1970), and the New York City Opera (19 November 1973) among many others.

Recent performance history

Der Rosenkavalier' remains a part of the standard opera repertory to this day with a total of 17 different productions in 15 cities being planned for the 2009–2010 international opera season. The tour-de-force soprano role of the Marschallin, which has been labeled as the soprano equivalent to Wagner's Hans Sachs in Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg , has been a star vehicle for a number of notable singers in recent years, including: Cheryl Barker, Angela Denoke, Renée Fleming, Nancy Gustafson, Soile Isokoski, Solveig Kringlebotn, Adrianne Pieczonka, Dorothea Röschmann, Anne Schwanewilms, Cheryl Studer, Kiri Te Kanawa, and Carol Wilson. A number of sopranos have progressed from Octavian to Sophie (or the other way round) to the Marschallin, notably Lisa Della Casa. Sena Jurinac was a successful Octavian before becoming a celebrated Marschallin. The only singers who performed the three roles during their careers were Evelyn Lear and Elisabeth Söderström.

Roles

Role Voice type Premiere cast, 26 January 1911

(Conductor: Ernst von Schuch)
The Marschallin, Princess Marie Thérèse von Werdenberg soprano Margarethe Siems
Octavian, Count Rofrano, her young lover mezzo-soprano Eva von der Osten
Baron Ochs auf Lerchenau, the Marschallin's cousin bass Karl Perron
Sophie von Faninal soprano Minnie Nast
Herr von Faninal, Sophie's rich parvenu father baritone Karl Scheidemantel
Marianne, her duenna soprano Riza Eibenschütz
Valzacchi, an intriguer tenor Hans Rüdiger
Annina, his niece and partner contralto Erna Freund
A notary bass Ludwig Ermold
An Italian singer tenor Fritz Soot
Three noble orphans soprano, mezzo-

soprano, contralto
Marie Keldorfer, Gertrude Sachse, Paula Seiring
A milliner soprano Elisa Stünzner
A vendor of pets tenor Josef Pauli
Faninal's Major-Domo tenor Fritz Soot
A police inspector bass Julius Puttlitz
The Marschallin's Major-Domo tenor Anton Erl
An innkeeper tenor Josef Pauli
Four lackeys tenors, basses Josef Pauli, Wilhelm Quidde, Rudolf Schmalnauer, Robert Büssel
Four waiters tenor, basses Wilhelm Quidde, Rudolf Schmalnauer, Robert Büssel, Franz Nebuschka
Mohammed, the Marschallin's black page silent
A flautist, a cook, a hairdresser and his assistant,

a scholar, a noble widow
all silent
Servants, hired deceivers, children, constables


Synopsis

Summary

Time: 1740s, in the first years of the reign of Empress Maria Thérèse.
Place: Viennamarker.


Act 1

The Marschallin's bedroom

Princess Marie Therese von Werdenberg (the Marschallin, the title given to a Field Marshal's wife) and her much younger lover, Count Octavian Rofrano exchange vows of love ("Wie du warst! Wie du bist"). To avoid scandal, he hides when a small black boy, Mohammed, brings the Marschallin's breakfast. During breakfast loud voices are heard in the garderobe and not the main door; the Marschallin believes that it is her husband who has returned unexpectedly from a hunting trip and has Octavian hide behind the bed. He returns disguised as a chambermaid, "Mariandel" ("Befehl'n fürstli' Gnad'n, i bin halt noch nit recht..."), who tries to sneak away through the garderobe, only to find that the Marschallin's country cousin Baron Ochs auf Lerchenau has unexpectedly entered through that same door to discuss his engagement to Sophie ("Selbsverständlich empfängt mir Ihro Gnaden"), the daughter of a wealthy merchant who has been recently elevated to nobility by the Empress. After boorishly describing his personal pastime of chasing skirts, and demonstrating it on the disguised Octavian, he asks the Marschallin which cavalier he should select to deliver the traditional silver engagement rose to Sophie. She recommends Octavian, and when Ochs sees the young count's picture, he notices the similarities in the count's face to the chambermaid "Mariandel's" and assumes that she is Octavian's illegitimate sister and he even boasts that nobility should be served by nobility, which leads to a confession that he has an illegitimate son working for him. The coarse Ochs propositions the "chambermaid," and, in response, Octavian pretends to be the country maid and leaves at the first chance he gets.

The room then fills with supplicants to the Princess ("Drei arme adelige Waisen"). An Italian tenor sent by the Spanish Ambassador serenades the Marschallin ("Di rigori armato"), while Ochs works out the marriage contract with the Marschallin's notary. Two Italian intriguers, Valzacchi and Annina, try to sell the Princess the latest scandal sheets, and offer their surveillance services to Ochs. Rudely interrupting the tenor's song, Ochs tells the notary to demand a dower from Sophie's family; to no avail, the notary attempts to explain that such is impossible under the law (Ochs confuses dower with dowry). Ochs leaves in fury, but not before employing the two Italians. Amidst all the activity, the Marschallin remarks to her hairdresser: "My dear Hippolyte, today you have made me look like an old woman." ("Mein lieber Hippolyte").

When all have left, the Marschallin, reminded of her own early marriage by Ochs's young bride, sadly ponders her fleeting youth and the fickleness of men ("Da geht er hin..."). By this time Octavian returns (in men's clothes) ("Ach, du bist wieder da"), she has realized that one day he will leave her ("Die Zeit, die ist ein sonderbar Ding"). She tells him so, and despite his fervent vows of love, she knows his love will not last. He is stunned by her mood change and abruptly leaves after the Marschallin asks him to ride beside her coach. She suddenly realizes that she has forgotten to kiss him goodbye, and sends some footmen after him, but it is too late, he is gone. The Marschallin summons her page to take the silver rose to Octavian to deliver to Sophie. After Mohammed departs, Marie Therese stares pensively into her hand mirror as the curtain falls.

Act 2

The von Faninals' home

Herr von Faninal and Sophie await the arrival of the Rosenkavalier (Knight of the Rose), Octavian ("Ein ernster Tag, ein grosser Tag!"). Following tradition, Faninal departs before the Knight appears. Sophie frets over her approaching marriage with a man she has never met as her duenna, Marianne, reports on the approach of Octavian ("In dieser feierlichen Stunde der Prüfung"). Octavian arrives with great pomp, dressed all in silver. He presents the silver rose to Sophie in an elaborate ceremony. Immediately, the two young people are attracted to each other and they sing a beautiful duet ("Mir ist die Ehre widerfahren...").

During a chaperoned conversation, Sophie and Octavian begin to fall in love (in this conversation she reveals Octavian's full name: Octavian Maria Ehrenreich Bonaventura Fernand Hyacinth Rofrano, aka Quinquin in intimacy). Ochs enters with Sophie's father ("Jetzt aber kommt mein Herr Zukünftiger"). The Baron speaks familiarly with Octavian (though they have never officially met), examines Sophie like chattel and generally behaves like a cad, also revealing that Octavian "has" illegitimate family. Ochs's servants begin to chase the maids, sending the household into an uproar. Sophie starts to weep, and Octavian promises to help her ("Mit Ihren Augen voll Tränen"). He embraces her, but they are discovered by Ochs's Italian spies, who report to him. Ochs is only amused, considering the much younger Octavian no threat, but Octavian's temper is raised enough to challenge the bull-headed Baron to a duel. The Baron receives a slight wound in the arm in the fracas and cries bloody murder. As a doctor is sent for, Sophie tells her father she never will marry the Baron, but her father insists she will and threatens to send her to a convent. Octavian is thrown out, and Sophie is sent to her room. As Ochs is left alone on the divan with his wounded arm in a sling, he begins to raise his spirits with a glass of port. Annina enters with a letter for Ochs from "Mariandel" asking to meet him for a tryst. The now recovered and drunk Ochs, in anticipation of his imminent meeting, dances around the stage to one of the opera's many ironic and wry waltzes, refusing to tip Annina, who silently swears revenge ("Da lieg' ich!").

Act 3

A private room in an inn

Valzacchi and Annina have switched alliances and are now helping Octavian prepare a trap for the Baron.

Ochs and "Mariandel" arrive for a rendez-vous. Ochs tries to seduce the seemingly willing chambermaid, though he is disturbed by her resemblance to Octavian. The guilt-ridden baron catches glimpses of the heads of Octavian's conspirators as they pop out of secret doors. A woman (Annina in disguise) rushes in claiming that Ochs is her husband and the father of her children, all of whom rush in crying "Papa! Papa!" As the confusion grows and the police arrives, to avoid a scandal, Ochs claims that "Mariandel" is his fiancée Sophie. Octavian lets the Police Commissioner in on the trick, and the Officer plays along. In the meantime the Baron tries to pull his noble rank to no avail, claiming that "Mariandel" is under his protection. Furious to be enmeshed in the scandal, Faninal arrives and sends for Sophie to clear his and his daughter's name. Sophie arrives and asks the Baron to leave her alone. Just as Ochs is completely befuddled and embarrassed, the Marschallin enters. The Police officer recognizes her, having previously served under her husband. The Princess sends the Police and all the others away. The Baron still tries to claim Sophie for himself after having realized the truth about the Marschallin and Octavian/Mariandel's relationship, even attempting to blackmail the Princess, but is ordered to leave gracefully, salvaging what is left of his dignity. Ochs finally leaves, pursued by various bill collectors.

The Marschallin, Sophie, and Octavian are left alone. The Marschallin recognizes that the day she so feared has come, as Octavian hesitates between the two women (Trio: Marie Theres'! / Hab' mir's gelobt). In the emotional climax of the opera, the Marschallin gracefully releases Octavian, encouraging him to follow his heart and love Sophie. She then withdraws elegantly to the next room to talk with Faninal. As soon as she is gone, Sophie and Octavian run to each other's arms. Faninal and the Marschallin return to find the lovers locked in an embrace. After a few bittersweet glances to her lost lover, the Princess departs with Faninal. Sophie and Octavian follow after another brief but ecstatic love duet (Ist ein Traum / Spür' nur dich), and the opera ends with little Mohammed running in to retrieve Sophie's dropped handkerchief, and racing out again after the departing nobility.

Instrumentation

Strauss's opulent score is written for the following:

Der Rosenkavalier Suite

So popular was Der Rosenkavalier that Strauss made several concert versions of numbers from the work and, in 1944, produced, with the assistance of the Polishmarker conductor Artur Rodziński, the Rosenkavalier Suite which begins with the opera's orchestral prelude, depicting the night of passion (vividly portrayed by whooping horns) between the Marschallin and Octavian. Next comes the appearance of Octavian as the Rosenkavalier, which is depicted in tender music; the sight of him looking so young makes the Marschallin realise that he will soon leave her for a younger woman. There follows the duet between Octavian and Sophie (oboe and horn) in which their love for each other becomes ever more obvious, but this is abruptly interrupted by the discordant music associated with the clumsy arrival of Ochs. Next the violins tentatively introduce the first waltz, which is followed by another given out by the solo violin, before the whole orchestra settles into waltz mode. A general pause and a violin solo leads into the nostalgic music where the Marschallin sadly realises she has lost Octavian. Then comes its ecstatic climax. The work closes with a singularly robust Waltz, depicting Ochs at his most pompous, and a boisterous coda newly composed for the 1944 suite.

Language

Hofmannsthal's libretto is a combination of different forms of the German language. Members of the nobility speak in very refined language, often archaic (set to the time of the opera) and very courteous. In more intimate circles they use a more familiar style of speech (du). For instance, the conversations between Octavian and the Marschallin in the first act use the familiar "you" but switch back and forth between more formal speech (Sie) and the familiar "du".

The language used by Baron Ochs is flamboyant at best and, although refined, makes use of non-German words such as his expression Corpo di Bacco ("Bacchus' Body"). Some programmes even have a glossary section. The language used by Octavian when impersonating "Mariandel" and other non-noble characters is basically Austrian dialect, impossible to understand by a non-German speaker. The German used by the Italians, Valzacchi and Annina, is also very broken and mixed with an Italian accent, something planned by the authors for these characters.

In English translations of the opera, these dialects have been accounted for with varying degrees of rigor; the Chandos highlights version, for example, uses only standard British English.

Grainger's Ramble

Composer and pianist Percy Grainger wrote an elaborate and complex piano transcription of a theme from this opera. The Ramble on the Last Love Duet in Der Rosenkavalier is one of Grainger's more complex piano transcriptions, with many sumptuous ornamentations and harmonic twists and turns.

Recordings

CD















DVD

  • Elisabeth Schwarzkopf (Marschallin), Sena Jurinac (Octavian), Anneliese Rothenberger (Sophie), Otto Edelmann (Baron Ochs), Wiener Philharmoniker, Herbert von Karajan, 1960 film.












Sources

External links




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