Saturday, March 12, 2005

Drei arme, adelige Waisen

Was it Assistant Stage Directors Robin Guarino and Zoe Pappas who trimmed down and punched up the stage business in the Met's current revival of Der Rosenkavalier? If so, kudos to this back-page-credited pair: said stage business had gotten both indefinite and exaggerated over the years. Its new life is a large part of what makes this the first successful Met Rosenkavalier in over a decade.

Between that and the infectiously energetic waltz rhythms of Donald Runnicles, how could the Strauss not be a success? Even without the best Marschallin in decades. Great principals can overcome dumb directing, but Hofmannsthal writes too many telling bits for walk-ons.

Take the aforementioned three poor noble (war) orphans. Recent revivals have played them for broad laughs. And they are ridiculous, the hapless hangers-on that they are. But indispensable is the strain of "Ehre" that they bear through their father and bring to the levee. This revival handles the whole levee brilliantly (though not exactly to the libretto), harmonizing the contrasts between conspicuous consumption, dinner consumption, malicious consumption (avoided!), musical consumption, and noble charity -- harmonizing all into the highs and lows of one world to which the Marschallin provides an order.

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Absolutely no axe-grinding, please.