Will the real Octavian please stand up?

"The" Octavian

I bet you’ve seen this picture somewhere before, especially if you’ve been following the British press Rosenkavalier brouhahaha. It’s the original, Strauss-approved Octavian herself, Eva von der Osten. For me this pretty much closes the case.

You might be thinking, hey, dehgg, I’m pretty sure the original Sesto looked nothing like any of the ones you rate visually. And to that I say: exactly. Whatever floats one’s boat physically, which is something we can analyse till the cows come home and still not arrive at any useful conclusion, since it’s the wrong conversation.

It has often happened in the past that I read a review of a performance which says [female singer] is really convincing as a boy/young man and then another review commenting on the same performance saying nah, [same female singer] is no credible as a boy/man. It can be hilarious but it’s true that people have different thresholds when it comes to suspension of disbelief and are also thinking about different things: appearance vs. acting like a boy/man, which for me is the crux of the matter. I don’t expect any woman to actually look like a boy/man but, as I was saying on another occasion, I do expect the singer/actor to have noticed differences in mannerisms and to hopefully be able to portray a man (or woman, as the case may be) on stage via body language, attitude etc.

What this brouhaha glaringly misses is the opportunity for the very interesting conversation about gender which Der Rosenkavalier could spark given the Octavian/Mariandel hilarity – which is, after all, not entirely silly. In fact, I think it’s remarkable and it further deepens the ambiguity of youth.


About dehggial

Mozart/Baroque loving red dragon

Posted on May 24, 2014, in acting in opera, freeform weekend, frequented opera venues, glyndebourne, richard strauss, those two austrians, weekly on opera, innit? and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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