Yesterday's opera from the Met was, of course, the All Star Aida, which I've been looking forward to immensely since the broadcasts started. It did not disappoint. But am I going to review it? Not really, no. After all, what can possibly remain to be said? Leontyne Price, Grace Bumbry, Carlo Bergonzi, Robert Merrill. I already loved Leontyne and Grace, and liked Robert a lot; now I love all four of them, and love Grace even more than ever. It was magnificent. But... I hope this isn't sacrilege... what I really really want to hear now is Renata's Aida. I do just love Renata.
Der Rosenkavalier. (Chandos Opera In English.)
I should have reviewed this the moment the CD finished, but I ended up writing instead about the Kiri revelation I'd had earlier in the evening - and I didn't want Kiri and this CD forced to share the spotlight.
I must say, listening to Rosenkavalier in English is a seriously odd experience. I can cope with Mozart, Handel, Rossini etc. in English if need be, because it doesn't really matter: the tune bounces along regardless of the words. The other night it took me a minute or two actually to register that the scene from Il Barbiere being played on Operadio was actually being sung in German. With Strauss, though, the music and words are tied up and tangled together. And a lot of the charm of Rosenkavalier is tied up in its language. The reason that, in my mind, an English Rosenkavalier doesn't really come off too well, is not the translation but the whole English language. The translator really has done an excellent job, and on paper it reads well: but this stuff really does need to be sung in German, I think.
Anyway, on to the singers. Diana Montague has a lovely mezzo voice and makes a very sympathetic Quinquin, even if no threat to Christa Ludwig & co. Rosemary Joshua is the least interesting Sophie I've ever heard, but this is only a highlights disc; perhaps she'd make a better go of things in a complete performance. John Tomlinson, in the few appearances these highlights allow him, is a perfectly fine Baron Ochs. None of this makes for a particularly noteworthy Rosenkavalier. But it's got one more trick up its sleeve: Yvonne Kenny. ( Yes, that's right, Yvonne again. I'm allowed to be obsessed, that's the point of sopranos. ) I was scared of what hearing Yvonne's Marschallin might do to me. Hearing anybody's Marschallin is almost too much sometimes. But I coped, and it was wonderful. Very, very different from the other Marschallins (Marschallinnen?) I've heard. Very different from pretty much anything I've heard. There's a purity and seeming effortlessness in her voice which works beautifully with Strauss, especially the conversational tone of this opera (which can still be heard in the music, regardless of the English text). The Marschallin's monologues should be taken delicately, floated through, not attacked and oversung, and Yvonne does this beautifully; so wondrous is she that her final line, a simple 'Ah, yes', packs more punch than all of Sophie and Octavian's Act III duet. Yvonne is the unquestioned star; but her performance is more tantalising than it is transcendent: she's robbed of her full quota of magic by the highlights format and the English text. In a complete original language recording, or, even better, on stage (my heart's desire) she would surely be utterly entrancing.