Der Rosenkavalier is a rather irritating Viennese farce with a profound rumination on love threaded through it.
The Marschallin is infatuated with sexy young Octavian half her age, and is tormented by the knowledge that he must move on: in a final act of renunciation, she blesses his union with a suitable girl.
But the casting in Richard Jones’s new production perversely distorts this relationship. In the post-coital opening scene, Kate Royal, his Marschallin, stands stark naked and statuesque under the shower while Octavian gazes at her, transfixed by her virginal beauty.
Since this Octavian (Tara Erraught) has the demeanour of a scullery-maid, and since the two seem so alike in age, you’d say it was a torrid lesbian affair.
Thus skewed, the central drama fires only fitfully, but Lars Woldt’s exuberant Baron Ochs and Michael Kraus’s nobly-sung Faninal infectiously animate the surrounding foolery which - thanks to brilliant lighting, sets, costumes, and movement-direction - transpires in an infantile Freudian dream-world.
The evening’s more solid virtues include Teodora Gheorghiu’s doll-like Sophie ensuring that the juvenile romance comes off sweetly, and Royal singing her great aria about the mystery of time with exquisite grace. Supported by Robin Ticciati in the pit, the closing soprano trio – with Erraught successfully rising to the challenge - attains the hoped-for transcendence.