Classical Reviews: Coarser, more cavalier

Der Rosenkavalier English National Opera, London

It's been almost three years since Jonathan Miller first served up his Der Rosenkavalier at English National Opera, stripping it to its bare essentials, humanising the fairy-tale, and generally holding back on the whipped cream. While the Marschallin stopped her clocks in the dead of night, his raced on. Vienna, city of our dreams, became Vienna, city of fashion circa 1911. Here was no fantasy, but social reality. The old orders lingered on. Miller took his cue from Strauss's librettist, Hugo von Hofmannsthal, who insisted that the opera was more than a fanciful evocation of a bygone age, that Viennese society was, in fact, time-warped. To the extent that the Marschallin would still receive the riff-raff in her boudoir over breakfast? A levee in 1911? Questionable, Dr Miller. But let it pass.

The "ennobling" of Herr von Faninal (by dint of his daughter Sophie's "arranged" marriage) remains one of the production's most telling inventions. On the rise of the curtain for Act 2, Peter J Davison's set tells us that, in anticipation of his new-found status, the family have moved house. The palatial reception room is empty but for an ostentatious painting standing unhung by its packing cases. Through the windowed corridor, a row of vulgar golden-archer statues dominate the garden terrace. New age art for new age aristocracy. The undiscerning in pursuit of the unspeakable. This whole act is marvellously staged, busy but finely focused in its detail. When Octavian presents the silver rose to Sophie and their eyes finally meet, it really does feel as if a new chapter has begun and young love is once again about to renew itself. Rosemary Joshua (the production's original Sophie, here deputising for an indisposed Donna Brown) catches everyone's breath with those heartstopping phrases in altissimo (has the frozen moment of love at first sight ever been more ravishingly captured in music?), and in Susan Parry we have an Octavian more credible as a dashing young gentleman than any I have seen in the theatre. The problems, as ever, begin with his/ her transformation into the chambermaid Mariandel.

If only we could foreshorten this interminable nonsense at the beginning of Act 3. It could be funnier (or more mildly amusing) than it is, but in the absence of Miller from this revival (David Ritch was in charge here), the pantomimic elements of the show appear to have coarsened somewhat from being a parody of German humour at its bottom-pinching worst to something horribly reminiscent of the real thing. Would it not be funnier in Act 1 if Mariandel actually tried to make that outsize bed? So much about this production is truthful. There has to be a way of extending that to the comedy.

John Tomlinson, for the most part, does a splendid portrayal of the boorish Ochs. He walks like he's only just dismounted - horse or female, it makes no odds to him; and you can almost smell his bad breath in those rude low notes below the stave. He always had his match, of course, in his cousin the Marschallin, and we have ours in Yvonne Kenny's gracious performance - one of the best things I've ever seen her do. One might wish for a little more old-world bloom on the voice, but her artistry almost supplies it. You really feel she's at a crossroads in life, still wanting to play but carrying the years with dignity. At the close of Act 1 she tells us all we need to know of regret in a single soaring phrase on the words "with a silver rose". And she carries that feeling right through to the final trio, by which time (and thanks, too, to David Atherton's attentive, beautifully paced conducting) there is a palpable sense in the house of hearts having been well and truly tugged.

Performances: 1, 5, 8, 12, 15, 19, 22 Feb, 1 Mar. Booking: 0171-632 8300

Mia Freedman, editorial director of the Mamamia website, reads out a tweet she was sent.
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Reach for the sky: there are around 250 new buildings of 20-plus storeys planned for London alone, some 80 per cent of them residential
Arts and Entertainment
Natural beauty: Aidan Turner stars in the new series of Poldark
Arts and Entertainment
Shining star: Maika Monroe, with Jake Weary, in ‘It Follows’
filmReview: The ingenious film will intrigue, puzzle and trouble audiences by turns
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift won Best International Solo Female (Getty)

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment

Oscars 2015 Mexican filmmaker uses speech to urge 'respect' for immigrants

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscar nominations are due to be announced today

Oscars 2015 Bringing you all the news from the 87th Academy Awards

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Lloyd-Hughes takes the leading role as Ralph Whelan in Channel 4's epic new 10-part drama, Indian Summers

TV Review

The intrigue deepens as we delve further but don't expect any answers just yet
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Segal and Cameron Diaz star in Sex Tape

Razzies 2015 Golden Raspberry Awards 'honours' Cameron Diaz and Kirk Cameron

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscars ceremony 2015 will take place at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles
Oscars 2015A quiz to whet your appetite for tonight’s 87th Academy Awards
Arts and Entertainment
Sigourney Weaver, as Ripley, in Alien; critics have branded the naming of action movie network Movies4Men as “offensive” and “demographic box-ticking gone mad”.
TVNaming of action movie network Movies4Men sparks outrage
Arts and Entertainment
Sleater Kinney perform at the 6 Music Festival at the O2 Academy, Newcastle
musicReview: 6 Music Festival
Arts and Entertainment
Sleater Kinney perform at the 6 Music Festival at the O2 Academy, Newcastle
musicReview: 6 Music Festival
Kristen Stewart reacts after receiving the Best Actress in a Supporting Role award for her role in 'Sils Maria' at the 40th annual Cesar awards
A lost Sherlock Holmes story has been unearthed
arts + ents Walter Elliot, an 80-year-old historian, found it in his attic,
Arts and Entertainment
Margot Robbie rose to fame starring alongside Leonardo DiCaprio in The Wolf of Wall Street

Film Hollywood's new leading lady talks about her Ramsay Street days

Arts and Entertainment
Right note: Sam Haywood with Simon Usborne page turning
musicSimon Usborne discovers it is under threat from the accursed iPad
Arts and Entertainment
A life-size sculpture by Nick Reynolds depicting singer Pete Doherty on a crucifix hangs in St Marylebone church
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Escalating tension: Tang Wei and Chris Hemsworth in ‘Blackhat’
filmReview: Chris Hemsworth stars as a convicted hacker in Blackhat
Arts and Entertainment

Oscar voter speaks out

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscars race for Best Picture will be the battle between Boyhood and Birdman

Arts and Entertainment
Anne Boleyn (Claire Foy), Thomas Cromwell (Mark Rylance)
tvReview: Wolf Hall
Arts and Entertainment
Tom Meighan of Kasabian collects the Best Album Award
Arts and Entertainment
Best supporting stylist: the late L’Wren Scott dressed Nicole Kidman in 1997
Arts and Entertainment
Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan as Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey in Fifty Shades of Grey


Arts and Entertainment
Mick Carter (Danny Dyer) and Peggy Mitchell (Barbara Windsor)
tv occurred in the crucial final scene
Arts and Entertainment
Glasgow wanted to demolish its Red Road flats last year
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

    Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

    Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
    How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

    Time to play God

    Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
    MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

    MacGyver returns, but with a difference

    Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
    Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

    Tunnel renaissance

    Why cities are hiding roads underground
    'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

    Boys to men

    The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
    Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

    Crufts 2015

    Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
    10 best projectors

    How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

    Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
    Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

    Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

    Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
    Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

    Monaco: the making of Wenger

    Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
    Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

    Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

    Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
    In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

    In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

    This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
    'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

    Homage or plagiarism?

    'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
    Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

    A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

    Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
    A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

    Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

    A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower