In German, we can use the same word for tall and great – groß.
I once sat at a table with a tall priest. There wasn’t a lot of space and when he tried to get up someone said “yeah, it’s a bit uncomfortable for someone who is groß”. He answered: “I am not a große person, I am only tall”.
Yesterday, I stood next to Joyce DiDonato and I was surprised that she is by far not as tall as she appears on stage. Still, she is groß, a truly great person!
It seems quite odd: going to Italy to see a German opera. Going to see an American walking through the jungle of German s, sch, ch, and ig sounds. But I didn’t choose by language. I chose by heart.
I was thrilled by Der Rosenkavalier (or enflammiert, as Baron Ochs would say) and I admire Joyce DiDonato, so I could either wait for her to come to Giessen (well… Gwyneth Jones cancelled Der Besuch der Alten Dame only six weeks before opening night this year…) or go where I can see the great lady disguised as the young boy.
Fate dictated we had to go to La Scala.
I would say that even our cute little theater here looks more spectacular from the outside than La Scala. Plain stone walls from the outside, small, no foyer full of pomp, narrow corridors. As we still wondered about the underwhelming simplicity of the place, we entered the auditorium. First thought: there cannot be this much space in this building! But ultimately, all the red velvet plush seats, the big circle of boxes and galleries on six floors, the huge curtain, all the gold and red, all this space that would be occupied by sonar waves where ostentatious enough to be overwhelming.
The stage design worked with a lot of mirrors, creating a brilliant palais (and bedroom and park) full of genuine little optical surprises. [Production Photos]
Joyce DiDonato as Octavian, could there been anything more delightful? Her Octavian wasn’t as “dual” as one might expect a pant role to be (as for the gender aspect – but I think that was solely due to too tight pants!), but she played it no less convincing, no less beautiful, no less heart-melting. It felt like I had to drown in Octavian’s emotions. And could there have been a cuter Mariandel? Thumbs up for the “Wiener Schmäh”, I loved it!
For the presentation of the rose, dressed in a white tail-code, Octavian descended a staircase, full of dignity and magic. One of the most beautiful moments of the whole opera, I almost cried. I did cry in the end, Octavian and Sophie finally dared to follow their heart and no one else stopped them (I mean, what are the odds of that happening in opera?). I love the gender play in this opera, but ultimately I didn’t care – there is a higher truth in a soprano and a mezzo (ahh… and this mezzo!!!!) singing this duet:
Spür’ nur dich, spür’ nur dich allein und dass wir beieinander sein! Geht all’s sonst wie ein Traum dahin vor meinem Sinn!
Ist ein Traum, kann nicht wirklich sein, dass wir zwei beieinander sein, beieinand’ für alle Zeit und Ewigkeit!
It is about a feeling that goes beyond gender constructions right into the heart. Again, no words.
So, the evening was great, “great and strange”. Strange, because as soon as the curtain had fallen, people started running out of the theater. In general, the audience didn’t seem very emotional, but leaving before the curtain call? Yeah, there we felt special again – young, enchanted, trying to absorb the magic of every second in this theater with some of the world’s greatest artist on stage who deserved credit for their fantastic show.