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Opera Review: Der Rosenkavalier

19 November 16 words: Jared Wilson

Opera North's rendition of this 100-year old romantic piece is as charming as ever at the Theatre Royal...

The Princess (Ylva Kihlberg) and Octavian (Helen Sherman)

Der Rosenkavalier is an opera in three parts featuring music by German composer Richard Strauss. The title translates as 'The Knight of the Rose'.

The knight in question is Octavian, a young nobleman coming of age. Played excellently throughout by Helen Sherman, he starts the opera in love, and in bed, with the Princess of Werdenberg (Ylva Kihlberg). They seem happy together, but she is already betrothed to another. So she eventually does the noble thing and cuts ties with her younger lover.

This comes after the Princess' odious cousin, Baron Ochs of Lerchenau (Henry Waddington), has come to town. He is to be married to Sophie von Faninal, although he seems far more interested in her dowry than her disposition. Things don't go to plan, however, when the Baron enlists Octavian to be the bearer of his silver rose, which we are lead to believe is some kind of family marital ritual, and young Octavian falls for Sophie instead. Given the choice, it's hard to blame her.

Baron Ochs of Lerchanau (Henry Waddington) surrounded by friends and goths

This is my first experience of opera, so I'm not going to be able to tell you with any accuracy how this performance ranks in the genre. What I can say, is that despite the length of it, at a whopping four hours including intervals, it's thoroughly entertaining throughout. The sets are great, the thirty-strong orchestra are terrific and the players themselves put on a series of fine performances. The plot is a fairly thin love story with a fair amount of to-ing and fro-ing, but it's brought to life by the cast.

The stand-out three players for me are Waddington, who plays the odious Baron with a poe-faced, bordering-on-pantomime aplomb and the goths Annina and Valzacchi (played by Aled Hall and Helen Evora). Despite the latter two being minor characters, they light up the stage every time they're on it.

There's something incredible about watching a piece of work being performed that's over 100 years old. The chances are that this piece of opera will still be going when all of us reading this are long gone. Likewise, it's amazing to see how many people are involved in this. Including the orchestra underneath, at times there are sixty or seventy people on stage at once. It's a fine tradition and, such is the emotion evident by the end, there's a good chance you might feel like having a little cry. Tears of happiness, thankfully.

Opera North's Der Rosenkavalier was performed at Theatre Royal Nottingham on Wednesday 16 and Saturday 19 November 2016.

Theatre Royal website
Opera North website

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