Don’t cry for Octavian, the 17-year-old hero of Der Rosenkavalier, though he hasn’t an aria to his name. Between duets, ensembles, and that time-stopping trio as the final curtain approaches, the young aristocrat—written for a woman’s voice—has no end of ravishing music to sing. And then there’s the stage business, which finds him juggling a worldly mistress twice his age, the ingénue he will marry, and a country Casanova who bumps into him in disguise as a chambermaid (it’s complicated).
Four short years from her win at the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, the American mezzo-soprano Samantha Hankey bounces onstage like the soccer sensation Megan Rapinoe, whom she resembles, and proceeds to ensorcell with her champagne timbre, generous phrasing, and androgynous silhouette, not to forget the feather duster and flamingo strut her Octavian affects while in drag. That said, Marlis Petersen’s Marschallin (the opera’s Mrs. Robinson) and Katharina Konradi’s Sophie (newly sprung from the convent) have zero trouble matching her force of personality and vocal allure in ways of their own. The patsy Baron Ochs comes before us in the person of Christof Fischesser, a commanding basso whose inner Charlie Chaplin do-si-does around his inner W. C. Fields. Send in the clowns! The character is one you’d love to hate, but you won’t.