Last night we had the immense privilege of being guests at Glyndebourne Opera House (http://glyndebourne.com) and, for a wonder, the weather was perfect too. (For friends across the world I should mention that Glyndebourne is a top-level, top-quality opera house set in the middle of rural English countryside, where it is traditional to picnic during the long interval, in full evening dress, in the beautiful grounds. Sorry, only a few old photos, as most of mine have identifiable people in them.).
The opera, Der Rosenkavalier, Richard Strauss, walks a tricky tightrope between tragedy and comedy. It is usually played glamourous, melancholy and decadent, as the beautiful, older aristocratic woman courageously relinquishes her youthful lover to a younger woman, interrupted by the boorish antics of the suitor to the younger woman, usually a caricature elderly buffoon.
Last night’s production by Richard Jones shakes up this tradition. The costumes bounce between 18th and 20th century and the direction is equally bewildering. In the first interval I overheard opera-goers complaining. Yet somehow this weird take on the story drags the tragedy and comedy face-to-face. This results in a funnier, sadder and more engaging story. By the end of the opera, the audience were stomping and clapping enthusiastically.
Musically, I heard no doubts expressed. The singers, orchestra and conductor were sublime. Personally, as an unashamed lover of the Italian Romantic repertoire, I find the long, soaring lines of Strauss a little like being force-fed meringues, but this production, by pulling the dramatic threads together, has brought me closer to appreciating the music.
I don’t have a silver rose to hand, but this allium shubertii after a rainstorm has a silvery look to it.