Ochs auf Lerchenau, Baron Anton

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(Strauss: Der Rosenkavalier). Bass. Cousin of the Marschallin. He arrives to visit her while she is having breakfast with her young lover Octavian, who quickly dresses as a chambermaid. Ochs alternates between asking the Marschallin to recommend to him a nobleman who can take the traditional silver rose to his new fiancée, the young Sophie von Faninal, and flirting with the maid, whose name is given as ‘Mariandel’. The Marschallin knows just the right person—Octavian, of course. Teased by the Marschallin for flirting with the maid when he has just got engaged, he explains that men do not mate by the calendar—there is no time of month or day when he is not ready for a woman. He suggests that ‘Mariandel’ would be an ideal maid for his new bride. He uses his own bastard son, Leupold, as his ‘body‐servant’. During the Marschallin's morning levee, Ochs negotiates with her lawyer to draw up his marriage settlement and Valzacchi, an Italian intriguer, and his partner Annina, offer their services to the Baron. Leupold brings the silver rose to the Marschallin. At the Faninal mansion, Ochs arrives to meet his bride shortly after she and Octavian have met and fallen in love over the presentation of the rose. His disreputable servants cause chaos by chasing the Faninal maids around the house. When he sets eyes on Sophie, he ogles her and attempts to pull her on to his knee, pointing out that she is now his. She is revolted by him, and Octavian promises her he will prevent this marriage. He draws his sword and he and Ochs parry, Ochs receiving a superficial wound and making a great fuss about his injury. While he is being attended to, Valzacchi and Annina (now in Octavian's employment) bring Ochs a message from ‘Mariandel’, who has agreed to meet him at an inn. Ochs waltzes with glee. At the inn that night, Ochs supervises the setting up of the room where he will dine with ‘Mariandel’, making sure there is a bed in an alcove. Before his arrival, Octavian, Valzacchi, and Annina have hidden accomplices behind windows and trapdoors, ready to frighten Ochs. ‘Mariandel’ arrives, and Ochs dismisses the waiters—Leupold will serve dinner. He does his best to seduce her, encouraging her to drink wine, and is interrupted by comings and goings through the trapdoors, which ‘Mariandel’ denies seeing. A veiled lady claims him as her husband, her children all screaming ‘Papa’. Ochs loses his wig and becomes more and more confused. The Police Commissar arrives amidst the chaos, and Ochs claims ‘Mariandel’ as his fiancée, which she rigorously denies. First Faninal, summoned by Valzacchi, and then the Marschallin, brought by the worried Leupold, arrive and gradually the truth comes out. The Marschallin advises Ochs to leave with a little dignity intact. Arias: Das lieg' ich! … (‘Here I lie’); ‘Ohne mich, ohne mich’ (‘Without me, without me’).

This famous bass role—at one time Strauss considered calling the opera Ochs auf Lerchenau—is ever‐popular. Strauss did not, however, see him entirely as a buffo role—he pointed out that he is only 35 years old, a nobleman (albeit a boorish one), who knows how to behave in the presence of his cousin the Princess, although he is inwardly a bounder: ‘Viennese comedy, not Berlin farce’, said Strauss. Vocally it demands a true bass—the end of the Ohne mich waltz drops very low and has to be held for several bars (many basses cannot resist the temptation to sink even lower and hold it even longer!). Richard Mayr was the first Vienna Ochs, and other famous exponents of the part include Fritz Krenn, Paul Knüpfer, Kurt Böhme, Ludwig Weber, Otto Edelmann, Oskar Czerwenka, Theo Adam, Donald Gramm, Jules Bastin, Kurt Moll, Walter Berry, Michael Langdon (who sang it over 100 times worldwide), Kurt Rydl, Manfred Jungwirth, John Tomlinson, and Franz Hawlata. Created 1911) by Carl Perron (who had, six years earlier, created Jochanaan in Salome).


Subjects: Opera.

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