Would it be very dull and predictable of me to say she was perfect? There are a million other words I could use, of course, and I'm sure I will use most of them in due course, but nothing else seems quite so all-encompassing as perfect.
Now. There is no such thing as objective perfection in any role, and especially not the Marschallin. There's no Official Marie Therese Checklist nor any single predecessor to match. She was stunning and heartbreaking and significant on all kinds of levels, and I've no doubt that she'll be described as perfect by others on account of all that. But right at this moment, what I'm talking about is a far more personal perfection. She was perfect for me.
It isn't just that she was all I wished. It's that she combined wish fulfillment with exquisite surprise. Cheryl's Marschallin was the ideal amalgam of my Marschallin — the heroine I've adored these many years — and hers, her own creation, just like every role she takes on. In the past, Cheryl's conception of a role has, by sheer dint of my own limited experience, become mine. This time, two conceptions came together, and the result? I can't imagine a more wonderful way to meet my Marie Therese.
Cheryl's Marschallin neither obliterates nor replaces nor embodies wholesale my imagined Marschallin. She is her — and now also my — own special creation. She takes strands of my imagination and weaves them into her own particular magic. She is revelatory one moment, achingly familiar the next. She makes me cry perfectly on cue, at all the bits that always get to me, and then at moments I hadn't expected. I knew, for instance, that I'd fall apart when she began "Da geht er hin", and I completely did. I didn't foresee the flicker of wretched heartbreak, swiftly reined in, on her face at the end of the trio — a moment which so blindsided me that I found myself still staring at the space she'd left even as Octavian and Sophie moved into their duet.
What struck me about her — though I'd half expected her to choose this path — was how young she was. I've become so used to the Marschallin as grande dame, and as a woman looking back on a youth that's already passed, that I forget she's actually only 32. Most women who sing her are older, of course, and tend to play her as such, but Cheryl's Marschallin really does seem to be 32 — not a femme d'un certain age, but a woman very much still on the cusp of middle age, still coming to terms with the maturity which time and circumstance and etiquette are foisting upon her. There are traces everywhere of the girl, and of a still-young woman — because she is still young — and so her moments of crisis, of panic, of depression and then of acceptance are all the more devastating.
Because for once this is a crisis-in-progress, a Marschallin truly in a state of flux, and that acceptance comes at a cost, slightly tear-stained. There's nothing aloof about Cheryl's Marschallin, no beatific resolution: she's pulled herself together by the end, but you feel this is just one episode of an internal battle she'll be fighting for years to come. I hate to use the word timeless about her approach, because it sounds somehow ethereal when Cheryl is all about groundedness; but what I would say is that there's nothing archaic about her Marschallin. She brings a very intimate sensibility to the role which would make as much sense in a modern setting as it does in this very traditional one.
I have done my usual thing and apparently written only about the acting, but as always with Cheryl, the singing is an implicit part of all I've said. It's all one; everything above applies to the way she sound as well as the way she acts, including that fateful word, perfect. Perfect for me. I will never know how she does it, how she opens that voice up in such rippling layers of silver and purple and yet sounds like she's just talking, how she can create such utter beauty but almost never let you wallow in it. There's no choice but to engage with her at every level — aural, physical, textual, emotional; you cannot separate one part of her artistry and leave the rest aside. At least I can't. Clearly.
This, then, is as much of an answer as I can currently muster to all the questions and I-don't-knows of my previous post. It isn't by any means a review, obviously; I do know that there are other people in the show, and there's plenty to say in praise of them. But I had to write about Cheryl first. Of course I did. There is nobody on earth (or in theoretical dead-singer heaven, for that matter) to whom I would rather have entrusted my first live Marschallin, and on Friday night she repaid that trust more fully and more perfectly than I could have imagined. And do you know the best bit? We've only just begun.