In his musical comedy Der Rosenkavalier, Richard Strauss focuses on great female voices in the three major parts of the Marschallin, Octavian and Sophie. For the new production of the opera at the Easter Festival in Baden-Baden with the Berliner Philharmoniker and Sir Simon Rattle, an outstanding trio of women has been engaged for these roles: the sopranos Anja Harteros and Anna Prohaska, and the mezzo-soprano Magdalena Kožená.
A legendary Octavian and acclaimed director
The director is also another “Grande Dame” of this opera: the mezzo-soprano Brigitte Fassbaender who for many years was the Octavian par excellence. She sang the same role for the first time in 1967 in Munich as a stand-in for Herta Töpper and gave such a convincing performance that soon afterwards she was also engaged by the Met, La Scala and the opera houses in Vienna and London. She was one of the vocal ensemble in Munich’s legendary Rosenkavalier production by Otto Schenk and Carlos Kleiber. Even after she finished her singing career and moved into directing, Brigitte Fassbaender remained faithful to the Rosenkavalier. She has now directed it several times. According to the director, there is always something new with this composer to discover and explore.
Expressive, profound and light-hearted
The three singers in the Baden-Baden production are already experienced Rosenkavalier performers, too: Anja Harteros is celebrated by the press as the Marschallin with the “luxurious tone”. According to the Münchner Merkur, she puts all other current singers of the role in the shade. Harteros, who has sung in Der Rosenkavalier at Bavarian State Opera and the Semperoper Dresden among others, succeeds brilliantly in combining both the humorous and melancholy sides of the character: “She is a light-hearted woman whose aim is to treat even serious things in a light-hearted manner. When she talks about things that make us sad, she is not necessarily feeling that same sense of melancholy,” said the singer in an interview. The character of the Marschallin moves the soprano by her emotionalism. Harteros added that while preparing for the role, it took a long time until she was able to sing the role through in its entirety without bursting into tears.
An experienced couple
Anna Prohaska and Magdalena Kožená have already appeared in Der Rosenkavalier together – in a revival of the work at the Staatsoper Unter den Linden in the Schiller Theater, under the direction of Sir Simon Rattle. Anna Prohaska impressed in that production not only with her clear, effortlessly soaring soprano, but also with her acting skills. The equally dramatic Magdalena Kožená gave a fiery, but at the same time sensitive Octavian. The mezzo-soprano made her role début as Octavian at the Staatsoper Unter den Linden in the production by Nicolas Brieger conducted by Asher Fish in February 2009.