Sunday, January 13, 2013

The Unsung Heroes of Der Rosenkavalier!

Let me start this by saying I am not an opera addict, or a vocalist. I do not have a vendetta against operas, I just haven't many opportunities to appreciate them. Also, I am not a horn player.

Now then, the unsung Heroes of the Opera: the Horns! In the case of Der Rosenkavalier, the Vienna-style horns. The main difference between a standard French Horn and a Vienna Horn is the valves. I won't bore y'all readers with the nitty-gritty differences and technical definitions, but the main difference is that the French Horn uses rotary valves and the Vienna Horn uses double-piston valves, also called the pumpenvalve. Also, the Vienna Horn is designed to take extra wraps onto the leadpipe of the horn, allowing for much easier transposition. Theres the not so nitty-gritty, now for the fun.

I say they are the unsung heroes of Der Rosenkavalier because it starts with the horns, ends with the horns and there is no specific applause for the horns. What I mean is that the opening fanfare is a beautiful opening lick that transforms into an insanely technical passage in the upper part of their range. Later on in the overture, they section adds tasteful melodic support that carries the ensemble from one theme to another. But that was only the beginning.

Throughout the entire opera, the horns almost always came in before, with or in reinforcement of a noble and righteous deed. When the Marschallin and Octavius declare their undying love in the opening scene, the horns were just behind their words. When Octavius defended Sophie's honor against Ochs the horns were in unison with his swipe. When the Police commissar entered the conundrum surrounding Ochs and Octavius (in drag), the horns beat him in the door! A general rule I saw was that if there was a horn fanfare or repetition of the opening motif, a noble deed was very close.

Another reason why they are the true heroes are the beautiful countermelodies they carry when not performing an epic fanfare. During the final trio between the Marschallin, Octavian and Sophie, the horns had a line that supported the Marschallin's line marvelously. I do not think I would have liked the two final (please excuse my lack of vocal terminology) songs as much were it not for the horns' lines.

And the rips. The magnificent rips. You just can't beat that level of hair-raising spine-chilling bad-assery.

Despite all of their glory and sheer quantities of awesome, There is no escape from the futile tilt-a-whirl exercise of removing water from the horn.

Between the 6 and a half hours of music and an amazing tour of the Hapsburg's primary seat of power, today will probably be one of the best days I have ever had. We went to a mass in the Hapsburg's Imperial Chapel, one of the most architecturally astounding places I have been. On top of that, the mass, Mozart's Coronation Mass to be specific, was sung by the Vienna Boy's Choir! It was amazing!!! I won't even begin to explain the tour because the inside of the palace is something you need to see to believe. As much as I'd like it to be true, the line "believing is seeing" from The Santa Clause movies just doesn't cover it!
The opera, well, I think my reaction to just one sections is pretty similar to how I felt about the entire production!

And here is a magnificent photo of the section itself:


  1. Alas you have seen the light. Lest ye consume hours of effort on the tin of jazzoids when the instrument of the gods is at hand. dad