The Guardian, 11 December 2009
Tim Ashley
Strauss: Der Rosenkavalier
Decca's new DVD of Der Rosenkavalier is based on the late Herbert Wernicke's 1995 Salzburg production, which was ­reworked, with the film in mind, at the opera house in Baden-Baden earlier this year. It never quite gives the impression of being a record of a live performance: you don't sense the presence of an ­audience, despite the applause at the end; the soundtrack has also been ­balanced with the voices further ­forward than you would ever experience in a theatre. On the plus side we have Christian Thielemann's immaculately bittersweet conducting and Renée ­Fleming's Marschallin, sung and acted with superb conviction. Less successful are Diana Damrau's overly knowing ­Sophie and Sophie Koch's occasionally unsteady ­Octavian. Wernicke's staging, updating the opera to the years before the first world war, has a brittle, cool quality: the set, a whirling hall of ­mirrors, continually reminds us that we are in a world soon to be irrevocably shattered, while the shotgun-toting thugs that form the retinue of Franz Hawlata's charming, if sinister Ochs hint at the dangerous emergence of the postwar far right. Watch out, meanwhile, for Jonas Kaufmann's brief, but sensational ­appearance as the Italian Tenor.

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