Otto Schenk retires his Rosenkavalier after 46 years

Otto Schenk retires his Rosenkavalier after 46 years


norman lebrecht

March 22, 2018

The veteran Austrian director was in Munich last night to see the final performance of a classic Rosenkavalier, first seen in 1972. It was filmed with Carlos Kleiber conducting, with Gwyneth Jones, Lucia Popp and Brigitte Fassbaender.

Kleiber’s opening tempi are worth the admission price all on their own.

Many regard it as the perfect Rosenkavalier.

Never to be seen again.


  • Caravaggio says:


  • Vienna calling says:

    This is the same production as in Vienna where, sadly, it is likely to run for all eternity.

    • Yes Addison says:

      Not quite. They’re both directed by Otto Schenk, and date from the same period, but the Munich one was designed by Jürgen Rose, the Vienna one (fussier and less attractive) by Rudolf Heinrich.

      They’re both available in musically excellent filmed performances (both times with C. Kleiber conducting), which probably represent them better than latter-day revivals. In both cases, it’s the casts and the conducting that make them special, in my opinion.

      You’re probably right that Vienna’s will hang around forever. They’re still presenting a Tosca that was new with Tebaldi and Karajan.

      • Olassus says:

        … and Vienna’s dates from 1968. Schenk had four years to refine his concept for Munich.

        Zeffirelli’s Aida for Tokyo in 1995 is similarly the best he ever did.

      • Petros Linardos says:

        I wish you were right in your assumption about Vienna keeping old productions forever, but they have replaced quite a few magnificent old productions with trashy new ones.

        • VIENNAFAN says:

          Oh yes, great productions by Schenk, like “Tannhauer” or “La Traviata”, have been unfortunately replaced recent years…

          I hope, they will not replace remaining ones like “Der Rosenlavelier” of course, “Die Fledermaus”, “Die Meistersinger”, “Andrea Chenier”, “Fidelio” and “L’elisie d’amore”… these productions are really beautiful and Viennese should be proud!!

  • kundry says:

    Musically superb ! It sounds so natural and so easy, which is definitely not! I agree with Norman – it IS the perfect Rosenkavalier, never to be seen or heard like this again! Kleiber is a truly great conductor ! Wonderful singers and orchestra ! It makes it even harder to tolerate the mediocrity we must endure these days, in all aspects.

    • Tristan says:

      You are right! I saw it several times and it’s already legendary and the benchmark for all times – however it will never ever be surpassed as there is the one and only magic Maestro CARLOS KLEIBER!

      • JoBe says:

        Yeah, but there is also only one Kurt Moll and, sadly, he didn’t sing the part of Ochs there. Karl Ridderbusch did, a man of very questionable taste. Moll as Ochs on DG with Karajan, that is really the summit of all summits! Even Walter Berry and Ludwig Weber can’t rival with that voice and that ease.

        • Pedro says:

          Moll was the Ochs in the performance I heard of Kleiber’s Munich Rosenkavalier in July 1982. Truly magnificent as he was for Karajan in 1983 and 1984. Karajan’s conducting was unsurpassable. I understand why Kleiber admired him so much.

      • Sue says:

        Absolutely correct!! And he’s much missed. Otto Schenk was a great friend of Kleiber too. Luckily for him, he has lived to a great age.

        I especially love the 1979 introduction to Act 3 and Kleiber conducting that, seen here from 57 minutes. Magic.

  • John Rook says:

    No-one rolling about on the floor in self-absorbed angst? No klieg lights or neon? Not surprised they’re doing away with it…

  • JoBe says:

    Sadly, no perfect Rosenkavalier without a perfect Ochs:

  • Sue says:

    This seems like an excellent version too. And von Karajan was a mentor and friend of Carlos Kleiber.

  • John Borstlap says:

    To compensate for all the talk about performers here, it is the music which carries it all. It is one of Strauss’ best and most inspired scores (in spite of the flaws here & there), and the last scene at act 1 (Marchallin/Octavian) is simply the best and greatest Strauss: symphonic music which is both free and logical, and expressive all around while expressing the complex emotions of the protagonists. A psychological/musical tour de force, and without the smell of mediocrity which often disfigures other Strauss operas.