After last week’s controversy over the Glyndebourne production of Der Rosenkavalier, Saturday’s CBSO concert-performance of Richard Strauss’ opera of regret at the passing of time brought balm, exhilaration, and many tears, all exorcised by a huge standing ovation after five hours in a packed auditorium.
Andris Nelsons, as adept in the opera-house as on the concert-platform, drew from his devoted players an account of eloquence and flexibility which did full justice to all the colours and phrasing of Strauss’ miraculous score. Concertmaster Laurence Jackson deserves huge credit, not only for his solo contributions, but also for his marshalling of this huge orchestra; from chamber-music (with the Maggini Quartet) to one of the most febrile scores in opera, Jackson has made a huge journey, and has triumphed every step of the way.
The contributions from Simon Halsey’s CBSO Chorus and Julian Wilkins’ CBSO Youth Chorus were vibrant and effective (the kids especially charming as they bustled around), but best of all was the wonderful team of soloists, from the motley crew of waiters and supernumeraries right up to the stellar principals.
And heading these was Soile Isokoski as the Marschallin, heartbreakingly dignified as she renounced her young lover Octavian to a girl much younger than herself. Isokoski phrased so creamily, and Alice Coote, her Octavian, employed such brilliant body-language as she moved from breeches-part to servant-girl, and back to bearer of the silver rose.
Sophie Bevan was the delightful Sophie, recipient of the silver rose, portraying her not just as the customary ingenue but as someone already aware of the resonances of being in love, and as her father Faninal Mark Stone brought more conviction to the character than we normally experience.
Bonaventura Bottone and Pamela Helen Stephen brought much presence to the Max Clifford-like publicists Valzacchi and Annina, and Ji-Min Park filled the hall as the fulsome Italian tenor.
But most memorable of all was the Baron Ochs of Franz Hawlata. This character can be such a bore (though pivotal) and a boor, but Hawlata here made him touchingly self-deprecating, his natural bossiness touched with self-doubt. The cavernous bass notes were held like rocks, and the body-language added so much. And in fact this was a presentation where every soloist had made such a valuable contribution to the choreography.
This was the CBSO at its habitual best. I feel reassured.