Glyndebourne's sensational new production of Der Rosenkavalier kicked off both Robin Ticciati's tenure as music director at the Sussex house and the 150th anniversary celebrations for composer Richard Strauss at the BBC Proms.
As has become traditional, the production was transported lock and stock (the barrel, in the form of Paul Steinberg's sets, left behind) to the Royal Albert Hall as Prom No.6. For anyone hoping for (or fearing) the garish wallpaper backdrops that characterise a Richard Jones production, the lighted strips above the podium gave a strong nod in that direction.
As always with Glyndebourne's annual forays to SW7, the essence of the production was captured in the costumed platform performance which, in Jones's interpretation, was deliciously insightful and thoroughly engrossing. With sentiment never allowed a look-in, and the farcical elements played to the hilt, it proved ultimately more moving than any Rosenkavalier I've seen before.
Tara Erraught's bouncing puppy of an Octavian and the Marschallin, in the shape of the wonderfully regal Kate Royal, were ill-matched in more ways than just age difference. The reason for the casting became abundantly clear when the two young lovers met, their rightness together truly touching and brilliantly contrasted with the odd coupling of Erraught and Royal.
The young Irish mezzo gave a startlingly unusual performance as the gallant young knight, rich of voice and imbued with comic flourishes, while Royal was beautifully at ease with the Marschallin's poignant straddling of youth and incipient middle age.
Two stand-ins stood out. Louise Alder, who covered the role of Sophie at Glyndebourne, sang radiantly and acted the kooky, feisty youngster superbly, a revelatory Proms debut from a true homegrown talent of whom we'll hear a good deal more in future. She makes her full Glyndebourne debut next season and that's something to watch out for.
With Lars Woldt ailing, the highly experienced Ochs of Franz Hawlata was perhaps a little closer to tradition than Jones envisaged but it was a popular and detailed account that seemed completely integrated into the production. There was a host of telling performances in the smaller roles including a mellow Italian tenor from Andrej Dunaev and a characterful Valzacchi and Annina by Christopher Gillett and Helene Schneiderman.
Ticciati's conducting caught a perfect balance between populist vulgarity and refinement, with terrific playing from the LPO. Even a score as big and bold as this can suffer in the demanding acoustic of the Albert Hall and this was apparent at times, although it was the more reflective passages – the Marschallin's first act monologue, delivered with a beautiful stillness and focus by Royal, and the tenderness of the young lovers' exchanges – that cut through most effectively.
All told, this was a triumph and a magnificent start to the season's Strauss celebrations.