At the opera: A love story from WWI | SummitDaily.com

At the opera: A love story from WWI

Elmer Koneman
Special to the Daily

Four hours long, the Richard Strauss opera, "der Rosenkavalier," will be the Metropolitan Opera HD Broadcast at the Breckenridge Colorado Mountain College beginning at 10:30 a.m. Saturday. The story is set in the early 1900s prior to World War I, with staging and costuming set during an idealized past time in Vienna. Of note, Renée Fleming has announced her retirement after singing the role of Princess Marschallin in this production.

Act I opens in the bedroom of the Princess Marschallin, at a time when her field marshal husband is away on combat duty. She spends the night with her young and beautiful lover, Count Octavian, performed by mezzo-soprano, Elina Garanca. Early in the morning, a rural aristocrat, Baron Ochs, performed by Austrian bass Günther Groissböck, pays a visit to Marschallin. As his appearance was expected, Octavian ducks behind a screen and becomes disguised as a chamber maid.

While flirting with Octavian in disguise, Ochs informs Marschallin that he must formalize his engagement to Sophie von Finanal, performed by the sweet-voiced soprano Erin Morley, for a marriage arranged by her father, a wealthy nobleman. In keeping with the time, such engagements of nobility are consummated by the delivery of a white rose — "rosen" — to the bride-to-be by an appointed attendant — "cavalier." Marschallin appoints Octavian to be the cavalier, much to his displeasure. The act ends with the entrance of servants, merchants and other visitors preparing Marschallin for the day ahead.

Act II focuses on the visit by Octavian in delivering the silver rose to Sophie, as her father takes his leave. Octavian enters with the white rose, meeting Sophie for the first time. As might be expected in an opera setting, the two become entranced with one another. Sophie asks Octavian to save her from marriage to Ochs, whom she has only recently met. When Ochs attempts to take Sophie with him to sign the marriage contract, Octavian intervenes. A duel ensues, and Ochs suffers a deep scratch on his arm. Despite her father's continuing insistence, their marriage is postponed.

Act III takes place in a pub in the suburbs. Ochs meets Octavian, again dressed in women's page clothes. Octavian makes fun of Ochs, and Sophie's father appears, also completely disgusted with Ochs. Marschallin next admonishes Ochs to give up Sophie and return to home. The ending scene involves the three people, Marschallin, Octavian and Sophie. As Marschallin quietly leaves the room, the young lovers are left alone. In a closing duet, "This is a Dream," Octavian and Sophie pledge their love for each other as the curtain comes down.

The libretto of this opera was composed by Hugo von Hofmannsthal, combining comedy with striking touches of philosophy and social commentary. Strauss' score, likewise, works on several levels, combining the refinement of Mozart with the epic grandeur of Wagner. The stage setting by Robert Carsen is updated to 1911 Vienna, the year of this opera's premiere. Sebastian Weigle conducts the orchestra, acclaimed for drawing out sublime harmony and pungent sonorities.

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Complimentary snacks and beverages will be served during the two intermissions. All are welcome.