Richard Strauss' Der Rosenkavalier at the Israel Opera was a critic's despair. Happily, there was nothing to criticize. On the face of it, Der Rosenkavalier is a comic opera, but on a more profound level, it portrays the story of an inevitable human tragedy. Presented by director Maximilian Schell with sensitivity and clarity, the comic scenes and characters were hilarious, witty, satiric, and sometimes bordered on slapstick. But in the context of the aging Marschallin, who desperately seeks consolation with a young lover before renouncing him in favor of a younger rival, this comedy emphasizes both the serious and tragic aspects of her longing. The cast of is superb. Nancy Weissbach was dignified and emotionally intense as Marschallin - inspiring respect and compassion. Octavian, of youthful ardour and naivete, was represented by mezzo-soprano Stephanie Houtzell. In the role of Baron Ochs, Kurt Rydl was a no less than perfect basso buffo. Chen Reiss's clear and enchanting soprano created a Sophie to fall in love with, and Faninal was presented by baritone Michael Kraus. Gottfried Heinwein's sets were inventive, functional, and in refined taste. The Symphony Orchestra Rishon Lezion, conducted by Asher Fisch, did full justice to the demanding score. Apart from two very long intermissions, the performance was riveting enough to make the four-hour-long production fly by.

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