Stayed up very late to finish watching that Paul Czinner film of Der Rosenkavalier – the one from the 60s with Sena Jurinac in the title role and Elisabeth Schwarzkopf as the Marschallin (and a rather warbly/tweety Anneliese Rothenberger as Sophie). I had seen clips of this film before, but I had never sat down and watched the entire thing. It’s pretty to look at in that slightly fake-looking 1960s color movie way. (Too much technicolor tulle, people. Too much.) The performance I enjoyed the most was Sena Jurinac’s as Octavian – what a beautiful voice! But I found that I didn’t quite warm to the film as a whole. It’s — well, I said it before. It’s pretty.
I read some reviews of it too. Why do some of the people who review older opera performances always ALWAYS claim that opera singers nowadays are just not up to the same level as opera singers way back when? I think they have fallen prey to the Fallacy of First Exposure. When you are coming to enjoy opera as a young person and hearing things for the first time and being amazed and bursting into tears during Strauss performances for the first time, the performances you hear tend to make a great impression on you. They stay with you. Later performances that you hear may not have the same effect on you. But that isn’t because the performances are not as good. Different, maybe, but the idea that casts of the 1960s, or 1980s or whatever are “unmatchable” now is difficult to believe.
Note that in thirty years I will no doubt be complaining that no one sings Mozart anymore like Dorothea Röschmann did, or modern Isoldes are never as good as Nina Stemme, or these silly young tenors who try to sing Schubert songs have nothing on Werner Güra. But those statements will of course be true.