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Chilly Rosenkavalier

Strauss Der Rosenkavalier (English version by Alfred Kalisch)

ENO at the Coliseum, 4 February 2012

Re-visiting Rosenkavalier at the Coliseum after many years brought strangely mixed and indeed alienating feelings about this heart-warming romantic comedy, to which Strauss turned after Salome & Elektra, both of which we have reviewed often in Musical Pointers and, in earlier years, Seen&Heard...

We organised an early-start performance of this long opera but it ended with the winter's first snow and London's transport in total chaos, so we weren't home until 2 a.m... Moreover, at the first interval some operagoers had departed because the Coliseum's auditorium was very cold; after the first Act most of us donned our warmest clothing.

What would it have been like on stage for the lovers, and in the orchestra pit? Surprisingly, there was no apology from the stage for the unheated theatre...

This revival of David McVicar's Scottish Opera production had pleased the first night audience and critics - surprising Fiona Maddox, who had previously found it "clotted, cloying and overblown".

Alienation first; we found ourselves unimpressed by the huge sets representing high life in the 18 C, overstaffed so that everyone in the company gets on stage. Three huge chandeliers in the Countess's bedroom? A cacophony at her morning levée; a huge cast for the elaborate "show" put on in the simple pub to humiliate Baron Ochs... Each of the 'big scenes' somehow failed to ignite, and that went for the music too this time...

Wasn't the extravagant gleaming silver of Octavian's costume really over the top for the presentation of Sophie Bevan's Rose [illustration from Mark Ronan's review]; reminiscent of Lohengrin and his swan and some ballet extravaganzas?

Nonethless, I am pleased to endorse the universal praise for the stars and the orchestral playing in this revival. The main characterisations were excellent, with the voices of Connolly, Roocroft, Bevan flourishing in the Coliseum acoustic, and not a word of John Tomlinson's revoltingly boorish and self-satisfied Baron Ochs going unheard.

Far be it for us to seek to discourage others from returning to this Rosenkavalier once ENO has sorted out its heating...

To demonstrate "where we're at" in 2012, I review below a CD from Ireland which had occupied and enthused us earlier in our Rosenkavalier day...

Peter Grahame Woolf

Amanda Roocroft and Sarah Connolly; Photo: Tristram Kenton

Sophie Bevan & Sarah Connolly Photo by Clive Barda


Ireland's Enchantment

Emerald Baroque Laura Justice (recorders) Farran Scott (baroque violin) Jennifer Bullock (viola da gamba, cello and psaltery) Breda McKinney (soprano) Bridget Cunningham (harpsichord)

Rose Street Records 1 [2010]

This CD, received on the morning of our day dedicated to Rosenkavalier (see above) is the predecessor to Bridget Cunningham's ground breaking Handel in Ireland, the delivery of her research into Handel's visit to Dublin.

Ireland's Enchantment, Bridget Cunningham's first album, is good entertainment but more than that. The members of this ensemble share classical backgrounds and Irish music in their heritage, with delightful results. There are tunes by Turlough O'Carolan (the 'National Composer of Ireland') and by lesser know composers, plus Bridget Cunningham's own 'Day of Deities' based on a baroque ground.

A good companion disc prior to the more important Handel in Ireland.