Robert Carsen must have been coached by Peter Gelb about New York's tastes, because this staging's Regietheatre sneaks up on you. The first act, with its sumptuous red rich fabrics bring up the years of the Vienna Secession faithfully. Act I was so satisfying, that it left me wondering why the production team was booed a few days ago at the premiere. The rest of the production answered my question.
It is an opera about the passage of time, and there was Renée Fleming in her farewell performance to this role, which she has sung with great acclaim all over the world. I found her voice still beautiful after all these years, although she moved cautiously through the first Act saving herself for the ravishing trio towards the conclusion of Act III. She could not have had a more wonderful Count Octavian than Elīna Garanča's great impersonation of a 17 year old boy in the throes of lust for an older woman. She sang with amazing precision and wealth of voice. I heard that Günther Groissböck's Baron Ochs was also booed opening night. I can see some conservative audience members objecting to his aggressive take on the role. This Baron Ochs is not just a oafish country bumpkin, in the hands of Mr. Groissböck he becomes a sexual predator to be feared and avoided. The rest of the cast sang very well, especially Matthew Polenzani, here made up to be an Enrico Caruso temperamental, womanizing Neopolitan caricature, handing the Marshallin an RCA Victor 78 rpm recording before embarking on his rapturous solo. Great performances were also given by Erin Morley's Sophie and Markus Brück's Faninal.
Sebastian Weigle is becoming the MET's new maestro of the German repertory after giving us a memorable Fidelio and now adding to it a magnificent reading of this work. I would have liked the prelude a little slower, but if this music captures the night of love between Octavian and the Marschallin then that hot, frenetic encounter must have been worthy of a XXX rating.