The dream cast of Renée Fleming as the Marschallin and Elīna Garanča as Octavian star in Strauss's grandest opera. In his new production, Robert Carsen, the director behind the Met's recent Falstaff, places the action at the end of the Habsburg Empire, underscoring the opera's subtext of class and conflict against a rich backdrop of gilt and red damask, in a staging that also stars Günther Groissböck as Baron Ochs. Music Director James Levine conducts the sparklingly perfect score.
Richard Strauss (1864–1949) composed an impressive body of orchestral works and songs before devoting the second half of his long and productive career to the stage. His 1909 operaElektra marked his first collaboration with Viennese author and poet Hugo von Hofmannsthal (1874–1929), who would go on to write five other librettos for Strauss over the following 20 years, in one of the most remarkable partnerships in theater history.
The opera is originally set in Vienna in the 1740s. Genuine historical references are merged with fictitious inventions (like the “noble custom” of the presentation of the silver rose to a fiancée, which never actually existed) and anachronisms (like the Viennese Waltz, which did not yet exist at that time). It’s a mixture that creates a seductive mythical landscape, a ceremonious and impossibly beautiful Vienna-that-never-was. The Met’s new production moves the setting to the last years of the Habsburg Empire.