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Review Roundup: DER ROSENKAVALIER at the Met Starring Renee Fleming and Elina Garanca

The dream cast of Renée Fleming as the Marschallin and El?na Garan?a as Octavian star in Strauss's grandest opera, Der Rosenkavalier, which opened at the Met on April 13th. In his new production, Robert Carsen, the director behind the Met's recent Falstaff, places the action at the end of the Habsburg Empire, underscoring the opera's subtext of class and conflict against a rich backdrop of gilt and red damask, in a staging that also stars Günther Groissböck as Baron Ochs. Sebastian Weigle conducts the sparklingly perfect score.

Let's see what the critics had to say:

ANTHONY TOMMASINI, NY Times: The dramatic chemistry between Ms. Fleming and Ms. Garanca came through in their every exchange, including a complex moment during their long, crucial scene in Act I, set in the Marschallin's bedroom. The princess is suddenly swept up with an awareness of frailty, of how everything we grasp dissolves like a mist or a dream, she says. This, she knows, will sooner or later include her affair with Octavian.

James Jorden, Observer: Usually that role is overshadowed by the grateful and sympathetic parts for women Richard Strauss and Hugo von Hofmannsthal devised for this sentimental comedy. At the Met, though, this is from beginning to end the Ochs Show, thanks to a hilarious and provocative performance by bass Günther Groissböck... What makes Groissböck so funny is that he is, both in appearance and stage movement, a total sexy beast. The character's obnoxious sense of entitlement for once makes perfect sense: when you look this hot, why bother to learn good manners?

Eric C. Simpson, New York Classical Review: If this is to be her Met farewell, then Thursday night's Rosenkavalier performance will stand as a memorable ending to a storied stage career. This is certainly not the instrument that audiences heard a decade ago; the shine has worn off the soaring brilliance on top, and a good deal of power has been lost. Yet the Marschallin is not a role that pushes a soprano voice to its extremes; Fleming sounded perfectly at ease in the part, showing focused warmth in her tone, and an easy flutter where she needed to move nimbly. This was some of the most accomplished, secure, and musically sensitive singing she's done at the Met in years.

Fleming has a deep, nuanced feel for the role. For all the glamour that she radiates, there's a melancholy wisdom about her interpretation that is deeply moving. In her first monologue in Act I, one could hear regret and resignation in her singing; a moment's consideration of her lover's discarded cap seemed to comprise a world of competing emotions.

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