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Marschallin


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(Strauss: Der Rosenkavalier). Sop. Wife of the Feldmarschal. She is 32 years old and already regards herself as middle-aged. While her husband is away she is having a passionate affair with 17-year-old Octavian. As they have breakfast, her cousin Baron Ochs arrives. Octavian disguises himself as a maid (Mariandel). The Marschallin recommends Octavian as the bearer of the silver rose to Ochs's new 15-year-old fiancée. It is time for the Marschallin's levee (a morning assembly held regularly by princesses) and her boudoir fills with tradesmen, animal sellers, an Italian Singer who serenades her, her hairdresser, and others. She becomes angry with her hairdresser—he has made her look too old. They all leave and she meditates on the passing years—soon she will be the old princess. When Octavian returns (Quinquin, she calls him) she is in melancholy mood. She knows that one day he will desert her for someone younger—time inexorably passes and sometimes she gets up in the night and stops the clocks. Octavian leaves—without the silver rose, and the Marschallin sends her little black servant Mohammed after him. The Marschallin next appears in Act 3. Summoned by one of Ochs's servants, she arrives at the inn where Ochs is now in trouble, trying to explain to everyone who he is and what his relationship is to ‘Mariandel’, whom he has tried to seduce. The Marschallin advises him to leave with some semblance of dignity. She acknowledges that she has lost Octavian, Octavian tries to say farewell to her, at the same time having eyes only for Sophie, and Sophie herself is overawed by the whole turn of events. The Marschallin departs, offering a seat in her coach to Faninal, Sophie's father. Arias: Da geht er hin. (‘There he goes’); Die Zeit, die ist ein sonderbar’ Ding (‘Time is a strange thing’); duet (with Octavian): Heut’ oder Morgen (‘Today or tomorrow’); trio (with Octavian and Sophie): Marie Theres'!…Hab mir's gelobt (‘Marie Therese!’…‘I vowed to myself’).

Although the Marschallin appears only in Act 1 and the final part of Act 3, she has remained a favourite role for all great Strauss sopranos, who love the dignity of the character and the soaring vocal lines. Some would regard it as the most celebrated Strauss soprano role in his most celebrated opera. Famous singers of the Marschallin include Lotte Lehmann, Meta Seinemeyer, Viorica Ursuleac, Hilde Konetzni (who took over the role from an indisposed Lotte Lehmann halfway through a performance at Covent Garden in 1938), Frieda Hempel, Anny Konetzni, Maria Reining, Régine Crespin, Christa Ludwig, Lisa Della Casa, Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, Helga Dernesch, Montserrat Caballé, Lucia Popp, Kiri te Kanawa, Felicity Lott, Joan Rodgers, and Renée Fleming. Created (1911) by Margarethe Siems (who a year later created the totally contrasting role of Zerbinetta in Ariadne auf Naxos).

Subjects: Opera.


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