A+ for an audacious opera
The red curtain of the Moore’s Opera House flew swiftly up to reveal the absurd world of an opera filled with swinish relatives, conniving busybodies, frivolous women, a pseudo-lesbian love triangle and several successful attempts at cross-dressing.
“Der Rosenkavalier,” or “The Knight of the Rose,” is an opera by Richard Strauss that was performed on campus Friday and Sunday by UH’s Moores Opera Center with a final performance scheduled for today.
On Friday evening, the Moores Opera House was filled with powdered white wigs, glorious gowns, suits, ties and several underdressed students, all of which amounted to a standing ovation for a brilliant comedic opera.
In an interview, Director Buck Ross said audiences could expect a lavish, beautiful production with both romance and comedy. Ross counts “Der Rosenkavalier” as his favorite opera and began planning on bringing it to UH a year ago.
“The stars aligned and all the right factors were in place,” Ross said.
“We’ve never been able to do it before and will probably never be able to do it again. We’ve always done challenging projects here that big opera companies are often afraid to do.”
As the curtain rises, we are greeted with a beautifully decorated set that serves as The Marschallin’s (Cynthia Clayton) bedroom, where she lies in bed with her 20-years-shy lover, Octavian (Mary Brooke Quarles).
While the show starts out with more serious overtones, it immediately collapses into hilarity when Octavian must cross-dress as a maid to unnecessarily avoid detection by the Marschallin’s husband; however, it is Baron Ochs (David Ward) instead.
As the story progresses, the scenes get more and more absurd — from a dramatic declaration of love-at-first-sight to the Baron’s fiancée, Sophie (Julia Engel), by Octavian to a ridiculous surprise waiting for the Baron at the inn.
Conductor Franz Krager led his orchestra emphatically and in perfect sync throughout the entire performance.
The music compliments the conflict and exposition flow as the group songs began harmoniously only to transition into a cacophony of noise during the conflict, finally leveling off at the end in bliss when the main lad gets his lass.
While the show may drag a bit in the first act — after all, it is a three and a half hour show — it picks back up in the second and third acts, causing uproarious laughter in the orchestra seats.
Even through the sex jokes, however, the opera has some political commentary and some more morose notes on the transitory nature of love and beauty. The mix ends up in a beautiful show that just leaves the opera goer wanting more.
Each performer was not only able to sing perfectly in German, a most likely unknown and foreign tongue, but also act the part demanded of him or her.
The music and vocal requirements are extremely difficult and complex and so singing an entire opera in German also proposed itself as a challenge to the cast and crew on top of the enormous number of costumes, wigs and large sets.
The key issue in this opera was casting, Ross said.
“We have one faculty member playing a leading role as well as two professional singers who had come back to UH for degrees so they could teach. We could not have done the show without them,” Ross said.
“In addition, the availability of the Moores School Symphony Orchestra and its conductor, Franz Krager, was a deciding factor as the orchestra part is complex and requires significantly more rehearsal than we normally have.”
All of these elements came together to make Moores’ rendition of the opera a marvelous one.
Each voice and violin was in perfect step with one another, displaying the professional level of performance that is to be expected from Moores Opera Center.
The final performance of “Der Rosenkavalier” is at 7:30 p.m. at Moores Opera House.
Tickets are $10 for students and seniors; $15 for UH faculty, staff and alumni.
For more information, visit www.music.uh.edu/opera.
Additional reporting for this article by Jed Ocot.