Friday, August 10, 2018

An inventive hoot and sparkling Der Rosenkavalier from Melbourne Opera: Herald Sun Review

Published online at Herald Sun 10th August and in print in edited form 14th August, 2018.

Melbourne Opera’s sparkling new production of Richard Strauss’ bittersweet comedy, Der Rosenkavalier (The Knight of the Rose), is an inventive hoot made special by the detail and life of Tama Matheson’s direction. Matheson mines the comic crutch and romantic heart of the work superbly.

Daniel Sumegi as Ochs and Anna Voshege as Sophie
The aristocratic Marschallin, in a loveless marriage, keeps a young lover, Octavian. Her cousin Ochs’ impending marriage to Sophie will secure his fortune. When Octavian, as the Rose Knight, presents the ‘customary’ silver rose to Sophie in a serendipitous encounter, the dominoes fall.

It turns out that a certain world leader with a bad blond hairdo and inflated ego slips into Strauss’ work with utmost ease as Baron Ochs. He shamelessly parades lechery, vulgarity, greed and self-entitlement through Strauss’ most popular work. Gratefully, through clever scheming, they don’t win over a love that blooms mutually.

Witty design inspired but unrestricted by its 1740s setting is a visual bonus — Christina Logan-Bell (sets), Lucy Wilkins (costumes) and Lucy Birkinshaw (lighting).

It could never have been pulled off so enthrallingly without four strong leads led by the comic charge of a marvellously interpreted Ochs by commanding bass Daniel Sumegi. Looking unrecognisable but convincing in form as our imbecile caricature, Sumegi’s deliciously throaty and meaty strength burst forth on opening night. It was a rare opportunity to see the bass voice own centre stage.

Anna Voshege, Lee Abrahmsen and Danielle Calder
Strauss’ melting melodic lines, however, were assigned to three surrounding sopranos. Lee Abrahmsen was refined and radiant as the Marschallin. Ruby rich in voice and gold stars for such deeply planted kisses, Danielle Calder wore the pants charmingly as Octavian and endeared in the disguise as the chambermaid, girl-as-boy-as-girl, “Mariandel”. Together with Anna Voshege, who brought a nightingale’s dulcet finery to Sophie, the opera’s famous trio received the poignancy it deserves.

Under conductor David Kram, the musical mojo took ravishing flight after a rickety Act 1 while talent and teamwork were abundant in supporting roles, chorus and in the pit. You could say that, in the end, it all came up trumps!

Der Rosenkavalier
Melbourne Opera
Athenaeum Theatre
Until 17th August 2018


Production Photos: courtesy of Melbourne Opera


  1. What's a comic crutch? What did you think of the diction Paul?

  2. Hello Gianni, I was being somewhat playful in my choice of words making the contrast to heart. Diction could have been better from all three sopranos. Sumegi was impressive in his clarity. The wonderful thing to remember is that if you had a little understanding of the plot, it was so easily comprehensible via Matheson’s crystal direction.