Der Rosenkavalier

Last night was the opening night performance of Der Rosenkavalier at Lyric, which I made the very quick decision to attend after realizing that there were no labs this school week (thank goodness for a break). Anyways, this 4hr+ opera composed by Richard Strauss was a delight to listen to, mostly the Viennese waltz music of Herr Kavalier and the trio Hab Mir’s Gelobt featuring the three female voices of Octavian, the Marschallin, and Sophie. The casting worked well: Sophie Koch as Octavian, Amanda Majeski as the Marschallin (who pulled off a much better performance as the Marschallin than as the Countess in Lyric’s production of Le Nozze di Figaro last September), and Christina Landshamer as Sophie. Additionally, Matthew Rose was a great Baron Ochs, providing humor and a powerful voice to the role. However, one of the smaller roles – a singer in Act 2 – was magnificently sung by René Barbera, whose powerful tenor voice resonated all throughout the theater and proved to be one of the highlights of the night. British conductor Edward Gardner did a fantastic job with the orchestra, never overpowering the singers on stage with Strauss’ magnificent music, but still allowing the orchestra to shine all throughout the opera.

The staging was traditional, which was nice to have for my first Rosenkavalier. The sets were beautifully designed, and after the first act ended, the stage manager allowed the audience to watch all the stage hands make the transition to the next act, which was cool to see! I took a bunch of photos, but didn’t attach them all here – nonetheless, it made one appreciate the work it takes into making a full-fledged opera production come to life. Although we mostly focus on the music and the performers, there’s still a lot more at play.

What also made last night pretty exciting was the fact that because it was opening night – there were a couple of famous faces in the audience. I was walking around the lobby during intermission and happened to notice that legendary Russian conductor Gennady Rozhdestvensky, who is currently in Chicago after conducting last weekend’s CSO performances of Shostakovich’s 1st and 15th Symphonies and staying to conduct CSO for the February 11-16 concerts that Maestro Riccardo Muti was supposed to conduct (before he hurt his hip unfortunately), was here at Lyric to enjoy the opera! I found out that Maestro Rozhdestvensky was only sitting a couple of rows in front of me, but he seemed busy with his wife and friend, so I didn’t ask for a photo with them (I secretly tried taking photos of him while he was having a drink in the lobby during intermission – see above). I did see Maestro Rozhdestvensky after the opera ended, addressing him as simply “Maestro” and he nodded and said hello to me, but that was about it. I should have told him that I was coming to see him conduct CSO this Thursday evening, but alas – perhaps next time. Some other faces that were at opening night included Lyric Opera General Director Anthony Freud sitting in the very first row (who was also at Nabucco’s opening night, now that I think of it) and Maestro Carlo Rizzi (who has been brilliantly conducting Lyric’s production of Verdi’s Nabucco these past couple of weeks).

As for other February updates – this Thursday (as mentioned above), I will be going to Symphony Center to hear the CSO and Maestro Rozhdestvensky, and next week, I’ll be heading to an open rehearsal led by Maestro Rozhdestvensky (replacing Muti) and another CSO concert led by Maestro Manfred Honeck. I also have plans to see Esa-Pekka Salonen and Yo-Yo Ma later in the month, and am hoping to attend Lyric’s Romeo and Juliet. Lots of exciting events!

Update, 6:35 PM – Muti’s replacement for the February 18-20 concerts has been named. Manfred Honeck will be leading the CSO, featuring Robert Chen as soloist and Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 6.

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