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Connecticut Lyric Opera gives "Der Rosenkavalier" its Connecticut debut

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The Connecticut Lyric Opera continues its tuneful quest to corral stray masterpieces and herd them to local audiences when it presents the first-ever Connecticut production of the beloved Strauss romantic comedy "Der Rosenkavalier" Friday at the Garde.

The 1911 opera is one of the bedrocks of German opera (it will be performed with supertitles here), written when Strauss was at the height of his powers and, following a pair of scandalous Strauss operas, clearly intended to entertain and to charm. What's scandalous is that this is the first "Rosenkavalier" in Connecticut.

Set in storybook, imperial Vienna, the narrative has a comic core, in the guise of the buffoonish lecher Baron Ochs, to be sung by Christopher Grundy, contrasting the poignantly realistic character of the Marschallin, a high noble past her prime and flattered by her love affair with the teenage Octavian. The Marschallin, a worldly woman who knows she cannot keep her young lover for long, is one of the most nuanced characters in all opera.

The Marschallin will be sung by soprano Kathleen Callahan-Hardman. Her lover Octavian is a trouser role (the operatic device of letting a mezzo soprano play a youthful male) to be sung by Kerry Gotschall, and the role of Sophie, the girl pledged to be Ochs' bride but who falls for Octavian, will be sung by soprano Katrina Holden.

With the trouser role, the key duets and trios are all sung by women, and Strauss, who loved writing for the female voice, weaves some of his most lush and gorgeous ensembles for them. As CLO Artistic Director Adrian Sylveen says, "Those are moments when everything stops and the heavens open up."

Supported by the fine Connecticut Virtuosi Orchestra, "Der Rosenkavalier" should be a most welcome old newcomer here.

- MILTON MOORE

"Der Rosenkavalier," staged by Connecticut Lyric Opera; 7:30 p.m. Friday, Garde Arts Center, 325 State St., New London; $32-$60, with senior and student discounts; (860) 444-6766, gardearts.org.

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