Saturday, April 07, 2007

Rosenkavalier with Jarvi

Tonight at the Lincoln Theatre the New World Symphony plays a free "Community Appreciation Concert", conducted by Steven Jarvi. I talked with Steven the other day about Strauss' Der Rosenkavalier Suite, one of the pieces on the program - he described it as one of those "life-changing pieces."

We each could remember clearly the first time we had heard excerpts from the opera; oddly enough, we both heard it on the same recording, Renée Fleming's "Strauss Heroines" (shown here). Jarvi went on to study the opera, conduct it at the Washington National Opera, and even arrange his own version of the concert suite; whereas I just bought the cd, and started listening to it all the time!

Even if my life didn't seem to change quite as dramatically as Jarvi's after I heard Der Rosenkavalier, it definitely changed me internally! Both the opera and the suite begin with some of the most famously risque music ever written - played before a closed curtain in staged versions, the music quickly reaches an ecstatic, thrusting pitch of excitement, and it's easy to imagine the post-coital bliss of Marie-Therese (the Marschallin) and Octavian when the music subsides and the curtain opens. The opera's real climax, though, is the Trio in the final act - for three female voices, since Octavian is a trouser role, all intertwining and upward towards a place more emotional, more moving, more ecstatic even than those first-act orgasms.

The text is talking about the vicissitudes of love - how we need to find a love so pure, it can even accept the loss of the beloved. The scene is a typical operatic love triangle, and yet the music and the sentiments are anything but typical, reaching for a kind of spiritual solace and forgiveness.
I chose to love him in the right way, so that I would love even his love for another! I truly didn't believe that I would have to bear it so soon! (sighing) Most things in this world are unbelievable when you hear about them. But when they happen to you, you believe them and don't know why - there stands the boy and here I stand, and with that strange girl he will be as happy as any man knows how to be.

I feel as if I were in church, holy and awed. And yet unholy too! I do not know how I feel. I would like to kneel there before that lady, and yet I would also do something to her, for I know she gives me him and yet she keeps something of him at the same time. I do not know how I feel! I want to understand, yet not understand. I want to ask, yet not ask - it makes me hot and cold. (looking into Octavian's eyes) I see only you and know only this: I love you!

Something has come, something has happened. I want to ask her: can it be? And I know just that question is forbidden me. I want to ask her: why do I tremble inside? Has anything so wrong occurred? And yet I dare not ask her! - And then I look at you, Sophie, see only you, feel only you, Sophie, and know nothing but that I love you.

So be it.
The words won't be sung tonight, but I think the music brings across all the emotions perfectly - it really does have the feeling of a ritual, unfolding over long phrases and beautiful expanses of time. Let's hope some more life-changing moments happen tonight!

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