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Welser-Möst conducts Der Rosenkavalier with the Zurich Opera House at the Royal Festival Hall

The last time I saw Franz Welser-Möst he was conducting the London Philharmonic Orchestra and Choir while I was on stage (being a member of the aforementioned choir) belting out Verdi Requiem. That was 1996. He was then a young and energetic conductor at the helm of an orchestra that knew what it liked and what it didn't. All that reminded me of today's Vladimir Jurowski.

Fast forward 12 years and last night I saw a not-so-young Welser-Möst on the rostrum of the refurbished Royal Festival Hall directing the Zurich Opera House in Der Rosenkavalier. He has still maintained his style - energetic with a rich repertoire of gestures that informed the responsive orchestral players of his intentions. I thought they made a good match.

The performance of this famous Strauss opera was in general good. Nina Stemme as the Marchallin gave the role  a strong stage presence; Michelle Breedt a nimble Octavian while Laura Aikin a convincing Sophie. There were many beautiful passages - starting from the overture and the opening duet in Act I, the presentation of the Rose in Act II. Baron Ochs and his mischievous behaviour didn't lend themselves to a concert performance and consequently the second half of Act II dragged on somewhat. The famous trio towards the end of Act III probably sounded good from where Welser-Möst was standing; but farther out in the auditorium the sound of the orchestra was quite over-powering and lots of the finer details were lost. I wonder whether the South Bank gave them enough time for sound adjustment and balancing (when Mark Elder conducted the LPO in an Elgar concert earlier this season, he took a good 30 minutes out of a rehearsal to get used to the new acoustic quality of the Hall).

All in all, it was a good evening "at the opera". No doubt Welser-Möst will do interesting if not great things when he picks up his directorship at the Vienna State Opera.


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