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Richard Jones's new production of Der Rosenkavalier made headlines for all the wrong reasons. Earlier this week, several prominent opening-night reviews included negative comments about the body shape of the mezzo-soprano playing Octavian (Tara Erraught). A media storm ensued, with cries of chauvinism from the singing world and defensive retaliation from some of the critics. The affair even earned its own Twitter hashtag: #taragate. And so Robin Ticciati's debut as Glyndebourne's new music director came and went under a bizarre fracas. The Scottish Chamber Orchestra's principal is the seventh conductor to hold the position in the house's 80-year history. With its luxurious rehearsal periods and familial atmosphere, it should suit him to a T; no doubt #taragate was what he least expected in his first week on the job.
There is an irony here, in that Strauss's opera deals in prejudice and superficiality. The odious Baron Ochs (Lars Woldt) flagrantly objectifies young Sophie (Teodora Gheorghiu) as he eyes her up for marriage - "it's like horse-trading," she fumes. Jones's slick production is laced with surreality: ghoulish masks, vaudeville choreography. It looks great, but the opera's tender heart gets lost.
The cast is impressive, particularly Kate Royal's wistful, silvery-voiced Marschallin. Erraught has a beautiful voice for Octavian - warm, light, supple - but she doesn't clinch the role. This has nothing to do with her figure (which, incidentally, is perfectly healthy-looking); she simply doesn't act with enough charisma. Ticciati conducts the London Philharmonic Orchestra devotedly, fluently, with poised waltzes, playful skittishness and diligent support for the singers. A roar of cheers went up as he took his bow.