Sunday, December 08, 2013

Sonderbar Ding

The visit of my Japanese friend H gave me an excuse to see the Met's "Rosenkavalier" again last night. (We also saw the rat pack "Rigoletto" on Wednesday.) It was my third time, including the summer Met in HD reprise last year. Glad I went! The cast was entirely new: Daniela Sindram was our Octavian, Martina Serafin our Marschallin, Peter Rose our Ochs and Erin Morley our Sophie - none of these names I recognized - and all under the very able baton of Edward Gardner. But this 44-year old production of a now 101-year-old opera (the Met premiere was 100 years ago) was still seamless and timeless. It made me realize how much even of the Fleming/Graham performance's magic is in the production itself - the grand old sets, the physical comedy, the meticulously Hogarthian crowd scenes...

My relationship with opera began at the Staatsoper in Vienna, whose standing room you could see for 20 Schillings - less than $2. (First opera: "Lohengrin.") Waiting in the queue for the tickets I got to recognize the true believers, some of whom came every night, others for every performance of a given opera, some for every performance by a given singer. As my theater friends have since told me, every performance is different, even with the very same cast. If you go just once, you'll never know. The flip side of that, at least in a case like this gorgeous klunker, is that beneath the differences - did the Marschallin always start singing "Die Zeit, die ist ein sonderbar Ding" while embracing Octavian, over his shoulder? - it's always the same.

Which is, of course, a very "Rosenkavalier" sentiment. Octavian thinks he could stop time, but the Marschallin comes to appreciate that time is as much God's creation as anything else (Auch sie ist ein Geschöpf des Vaters, der uns alle erschaffen hat), ravaging in the individual's life but mysteriously consistent over the sum of lives. There will always be another Octavian discovering another Sophie; time might even graciously stop for them for a shining moment. The Marschallin's resignation seems miraculous, even religious to the young lovers (Mir ist wie in der Kirch'n), but something like it is demanded of all of us eventually (I guess I'm getting there). The capacity for this resignation is a miracle too.

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