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It is beautifully apt that, in 1911, it was a Strauss who set the Austro-Hungarian Empire alight with a sumptuous, elegant grand ball of an opera, set in the Vienna of Maria Theresa.
This Strauss, though, was a very different 'Kessel der Fische' from the toe-tapping Johanns I and II. It’s as if Richard Strauss has the entire world of the Johanns captured in a snow globe, which he is shaking in the palm of his hand (musically speaking, of course).
With its words by Strauss’s favourite librettist, Hugo von Hofmannsthal, the premiere in Dresden of Der Rosenkavalier was one of the composer’s biggest successes. it’s fair to say that this particular librettist brought out the best in Strauss, who not only set his words but seemed inspired to set the unspoken aspects, the subtexts, as well. The result is an incredibly rich score, which feels as if it’s pressing on all four sides of the Viennese ballroom, trying to get out. For highlights of the opera, including the amazing duet ‘Mir ist die Ehre widerfahren ...’, try the 1990s Royal Opera house production with Ann Murray and Anna Tomowasintow alongside Kurt Moll. Better still, save yourself to see it live, where it delights.
Ann Murray (mezzo-soprano) as Octavian; Anna Tomowasintow (soprano) as Marschallin; Kurt Moll (bass) as Ochs; Chorus and Orchestra of the Royal Opera House; Andrew Davis (conductor). Opus Arte: OACD9006D.