The Met’s current premiere diva, Renee Fleming, sang the role of the Marschallin, and gave a very rich and poignant performance as the older woman who is determined to see her young lover safely into the arms of a suitably young wife. Susan Graham, who has played Octavian to Fleming’s Marschallin before, gives us a young man who is dynamic, awkward enough to be funny but not overbroad when in “female” disguise, and turbulently conflicted between his desire for the Marschallin and the sparks-flying love-at-first sight he feels for Sophie. (Their meeting was a lovely scene, and great to see on the big screen.) Christine Schäfer sings the role of Sophie, the daughter of a wealthy commoner recently raised to the gentry, with great emotional range, at first swept off her feet by the proposal from the “noble” Baron Ochs, for whom Octavian is supposed to perform the ceremonial “rose bearer” role; then repulsed by the reality of Ochs; and
not-at-all certain she is flattered by Octavian’s third-act plot to discredit Ochs and break the engagement. Baron Ochs is a Falstaffian figure, greedy, gluttonous, lecherous, snobbish, and cowardly. Bass Kristin Sigmundsson gives us an Ochs who displays all these faults with a good humor, and carries away some shreds of dignity at the last.
This has always been one of our favorite operas. Although it is long, at 4 ½ hours with intermissions, and has few actual “songs” other than, ironically, Baron Ochs egotistical “Mit Mir” that ends the second act, Strauss manages to make the whole opera musical, engaging, and easy to listen to. This is a revival of a lavish production which invokes old Vienna marvelously, from the warm Schoenbrunn yellow of the Marschallin’s bedroom, with the steeple of the Stefansdom in the distance; the elegance of Faninal’s salon; and the smoke-browned walls of the old inn in the third act. The singing was
flawless and the costuming beautiful. All in all a thoroughly enjoyable afternoon at the Opera.
The recorded broadcast will be replayed at theaters the evening of January 27th. For $20.00, it’s a great deal if you like opera.