In January, 1911, before the First World War, the Dresden opera house curtain rose for Richard Strauss’s romantic and much loved comic opera Der Rosenkavalier.
The orchestra had depicted the passionate love scene with its musical orgasm. It was the ‘morning after’ for the middle-aged aristocratic Marshallin (immortalized by great sopranos like Elisabeth Schwarzkopf) and Octavian, her toy-boy. Someday, ‘it’ comes to an end for every woman: Octavian falls for Sophie, the daughter of an arms dealer and property developer.
The poet of fin-de-siècle Vienna, Hofmannsthal, who ranks alongside Mozart’s da Ponte, wrote the text.
The opera is loved for its setting in eighteenth century Vienna (reminiscent of Hogarth), its waltz rhythms redolent of Johann Strauss’s The Blue Danube, its melody, its blending of vulgarity and elegance; and for the mixture of nostalgia and sentimentality, laughter and tears. It culminates with comical Falstaff-like Baron Ochs’s hilarious and disastrous assignation in the White Horse inn.
Strauss was a disciple of Wagner. His score is a treasure-house, particularly the end of act 1 and the act 3 final trio, the Presentation of the Silver Rose, and the waltz ‘With me, no night is too long’: Mit mir, keine Nacht Dir zu lang.
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