“You are da Ponte and Scribe in one person.” It is hard to imagine a worse affront for Richard Strauss to offer his sensitive, or perhaps even touchy, librettist than this unfortunate comment. Surely, Hugo von Hofmannsthal did not mind being compared with Mozart’s lyricist, who at all times worked with the composer on an equal footing. Comparing him Eugène Scribe, however, a successful author of a factory-like prolificacy but no literary quality worth mentioning, will most likely have soured, or even poisoned, this well-meant compliment.
Like no other work, DER ROSENKAVALIER represents the congenial cooperation of this eminently productive duo. After ELEKTRA, the poet and the composer searched for somewhat lighter material for a new opera. “In the space of only three afternoons, I have created a complete and entirely fresh scenario for a light opera, with drastic comedy in both characters and situations”, Hofmannsthal wrote to Strauss on 11 February 1909. He had found the ambience for this light opera in the Viennese era of Maria Theresia, which provided him with a backdrop for an – ultimately timeless – comedy of manners with an extreme variety of characters. It was a piece full of (not exclusively) Austrian morbidity and wickedness, a panorama of a society in transformation with current references, a melancholy meditation on ephemerality.
Both authors repeatedly faced the reproach that their ROSENKAVALIER was an exercise in escapism and that they did not have the courage to surpass the radicality of ELEKTRA. But this view ignores the subversive power of humour and the great potential inherent in the creators’ psychological delicacy: “You have to be light: to hold, take and let go with a light heart and light hands … Those who are not like that will be punished by life, and God will not have mercy on them”, Marschallin sings – types and characters who rise and fall, driven hither and thither between love and impermanence.
Gintaras Tamutis (Termine)
Miljan Milovic (Termine)
Jeongmyeong Lee (Termine)
Sven Bakin (Termine)
Algis Lunskis (Termine)
Christian Specht (Termine)