In late 1995, engineers and producers sat down with Elisabeth Schwarzkopf at the Abbey Road studios of EMI in London, to remaster her 1956 recording of Der Rosenkavalier for compact disc. The result is described as not just a re-mastering but a re-engineering of the performance originally supervised by Schwarzkopf's husband Walter Legge, and it is always mentioned as one of the best recordings of Rosenkavalier available. This week week on the Lyric Stage we have selections from that recording.
Hugo von Hoffmanstahl's libretto tells the story of four main characters: the aristocratic Marschallin, so called because her conveniently absent husband is a field marshal, her very young lover Count Octavian, her oafish cousin Baron Ochs and Ochs' prospective fiancee Sophie, daughter of a rich bourgeois. At the Marschallin's suggestion , Ochs gets Octavian to act as his Rosenkavalier and present the ceremonial silver rose to Sophie. But when Octavian meets Sophie they fall in love at first sight. By a comic intrigue they get rid of Ochs with the help of the Marschallin, who then yields Octavian to the younger woman, thus coming to terms with the onward passage of time.
The highlights are almost entirely from the music of the Marschellin, Octavian and Sophie. Soprano Elizabeth Schwarzkopf sings the Marschelin, mezzo-soprano Christa Ludwig the trouser role of Octavian, and soprano Teresa Stich-Randall sings Sophie . The Italian Tenor early in the music is Nicolai Gedda. Herbert Von Karajan conducts The Philharmonia Chorus and Orchestra.