Live Strauss opera loses magic on disc

The Royal Opera's performance of Richard Strauss' Der Rosenkavalier - his comedy of manners - loses some of its magic on disc

Composer: Strauss
Repertoire: Der Rosenkavalier 
Artists: Soloists, Chorus and Orchestra of the Royal Opera House/Andrew Davis
Rating: 3/5 
Genre: Opera
Label: Opus Arte OA CD9006

The Music After the harmonic daring and psycho-sexual subject matter of his operas Salome (1905) and Elektra (1909), Richard Strauss took a new path with his nostalgic, tune-soaked comedy of manners Der Rosenkavalier (1911). It tells the story of a powerful old bully and an impetuous teenage lover who are rivals for a beautiful girl. 

The Performance All the principals were established as specialists in their roles by the time of this live recording from 1995, and you can hear why: there’s an impressive confidence of delivery in the more conversational scenes. That said, only crystal-voiced Barbara Bonney (as the ingénue Sophie) delivers pure vocal luxury as well. Anna Tomowa-Sintow (Marschallin), Ann Murray (Octavian), and Kurt Moll (Ochs) are more variable, and though they all bring good things to the table, they don’t have Bonney’s ear-caressing beauty of sound. Conductor Andrew Davis delivers a lively account of the score. 

The Verdict It may have been a great night in the theatre, but if so, the magic only partially translates to disc. For fans of the principal singers, it might still be a pleasing addition to the shelf. 

Want More? Karajan’s 1956 recording with the Philharmonia Orchestra, Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, and Christa Ludwig on EMI (966 8242) is still considered a benchmark.