Thursday, May 8, 2014

Carlos Kleiber und Der Rosenkavalier (The Conductorcam Edition)

Anyone can watch what's happening on the stage, including the conductor. But during an opera, the only people who can (or need to) watch the conductor are the musicians—the singers and instrumentalists.

Here are about 90 minutes of the orchestra-eye view of the great maestro Carlos Kleiber in action—not a rehearsal (there are a lot of those clips around, too), but a live performance; not “just” an orchestra concert, but an opera. I am a behind-the-scenes kind of guy. If I can see into the wings from my seat, I watch what’s going on backstage almost as much as what’s on stage. If I am sitting high enough to see into the pit, I watch the orchestra a lot, too.

Now I get to sit in the pit, right in there with the orchestra.* These three half-hour excerpts—one from each act of Der Rosenkavalier—obviously are not new, but I just found them. The technical quality of the film is not high—but the musical technique can’t be beat!

There is so much to admire in Maestro Kleiber’s work, but what strikes me most in these excerpts is how little conducting he needs to do. It seems in Strauss, you’d be conducting your arms off, but Kleiber achieves so much with such small gestures. Mind you, he gets big and sweeping when he needs to, but only when he needs to.

He almost never takes his eyes off the stage, and I don't thing he is using a score, either. The other thing I really enjoy in these clips is seeing his internal conversation, and the external conversations he has with the ensemble. Maestro Kleiber reacts to what is happening onstage, whether or not the singers and orchestra are responding appropriately, and even in one instance where he seems to have missed a cue himself! He was human after all!  

The Maestro:

Oh, and here is what's happening on stage:

The Opera:

*I am trying really hard not to call the orchestra “the musicians.” As a (mostly amateur) singer, I am particularly sensitive to comments like, “Tonight the choir is going to rehearse with the musicians,” which somehow implies that the singers are not musicians. (Some aren’t, but that’s a different conversation.)


  1. By far the best place to watch an opera is from the wings.

    1. That sounds like the best place. I haven't done that in many many years!


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