A bulging diary forces me to skip Covent Garden's nth revival of Der Rosenkavalier later this month, but I did find time for Friday's general rehearsal.
What a disappointment.
The tired old tinselled macaroon production is the least of the problems, even making allowances for the unfinished nature of the rehearsal product. I haven't heard the ROH orchestra play this badly all year. Scrappy ensemble, poor intonation, deranged brass - it would shame a school band. The curtain-down preludes were a real trial. Were there any orchestra rehearsals at all beforehand? It certainly didn't sound like it. Kirill Petrenko really has his work cut out to knock it into shape before Monday's opening.
And I was disappointed in Soile Isokoski's Marschallin. I can understand why she wanted to conserve her voice for most of the rehearsal, but charisma doesn't wear out if it's exercised. Her presence barely registered. And her makeup was positively unkind - couldn't they at least give her some brows?
Sophie Koch's Octavian too failed to sparkle, though at least she sang out. As to why a seventeen year old boy might be interested in knocking off a flour-faced gran (and vice versa) the production imparts no clues. It's rare that any of the characters even look at each other outside the comic knockabouts, and so the Marschallin's beautifully-written soul-searching passes unexplored.
So the sideshow became the star - the delightfully oafish Baron Ochs of Peter Rose, whose less than elegant singing works in this case to the character's advantage. Thomas Allen's Faninal too was wonderfully drawn in the few lines allotted.
But it was Lucy Crowe who left the most positive impression overall, a Sophie as defiant and spirited as Baron Ochs claims. Some of those top notes sounded dangerously squeezed, but the rest was liquid silver, and her stroppy charm made a long four and half hours pass less slowly.