R Strauss Der Rosenkavalier
That unpredictable spark of brilliance, Kleiber, rarely records, but he has made two video Rosenkavalier s, both excellent. If this is marginally less successful than his earlier, Munich version (DG, 9/91), it still has much in its favour, in particular two of the three pivotal roles. Felicity Lott does not have the refulgent vocal power of Gwyneth Jones in Munich, but she commands the Straussian style, ‘float’ and all, and is much the finer actress. She creates a livelier, more humorous but also more convincingly vulnerable Marschallin, her fears and final renunciation deeply felt. Despite his mellow characterisation Manfred Jungwirth’s raspingly inadequate voice handicaps the Munich set. Moll is cavernously secure from high F to low E and every bit as idiomatic, an aristocratic ox whose boorishness springs more from sublime narcissism than rustic ill-breeding. Von Otter is a convincingly boyish Octavian, valiant but gawky, and a hilariously toothy Mariandel. Her Mozartian voice is fresher than Munich’s Brigitte Fassbaender, but she lacks the power to deliver the Rose with quite the right soaring beauty. Bonney’s pretty young Sophie displays the finest voice on stage. The Valzacchi, Faninal and Commissioner are excellent; Annina, the Tenor and the Leitmetzerin less so.
Kleiber’s conducting is the most constant element: lively, swift, careful in dynamics, incisive in detail – especially effective with Lott in Act 1’s soliloquies. He never pours on lush sentiment, yielding champagne rather than whipped cream, and superbly so; the VSO orchestra is superior.
Otto Schenk handles both stagings well, although this Marschallin’s bedchamber looks rather drab. The video direction is less sure, especially in cutting away distractingly to highlight Kleiber’s freeform conducting. As well as visual clarity and optional subtitles, DVD greatly improves the originally disappointing sound. Strongly recommended