While the stage works of Richard Wagner have arguably dominated the post-war history of modern opera staging, those by Richard Strauss have established an ethos of historical lineage since their first performances. Since its premiere in 1911, Der Rosenkavalier has been repeatedly staged with the original scenery and costumes created by Alfred Roller. Even after the Second World War, Roller’s scenery and costumes were reproduced as the model production in prominent opera houses for the performance of Strauss’ works, such as Dresden, Salzburg and Vienna. Luchino Visconti (1966) and Helmut Drese (1967) pioneered the use of new sets and scenery which were not in the original Rococo style, but Art Nouveau. They were followed by directors from East Germany, notably Götz Friedrich (1981) and Ruth Berghaus (1992) and, since the 1990s, modern productions have gradually become more common. However, because of the influence of the original concept, the primal image of this work is still pervasive: the Rococo fantasy of Vienna in the eighteenth century; the aesthetic of the silver rose ceremony; the melancholic, aristocratic woman; and the sweetly sentimental, but deceptively complicated, music. Even today, opera directors and critics struggle to relinquish and transform the concept of Der Rosenkavalier’s original production. Can they overcome this original concept? What are the concepts adopted in modern productions? How do contemporary directors transform central motifs in their productions of Der Rosenkavalier in order to keep this opera alive for posterity?
A primary concern of “Der Rosenkavalier-Studies” is the genesis of the work and the documentation and interpretation of the original text and music. This can be seen in a range of examples, from the music analysis carried out by Norman Del Mar to recent research about the crucial role of Harry Graf Kessler conducted by Michael Reynold. Recent developments in the field of opera studies have led to a renewed interest in diverse performance approaches and traditions. But, although extensive research has been carried out in all the fields indicated above, very few studies exist which specifically discuss modern productions of this particular work.
This article explores the transformation of three motifs central to Der Rosenkavalier – Rococo, rose, and mirror – as they are treated in three productions given over the last quarter-century: one in Austria and two in Germany. The productions are by Herbert Wernicke at the Salzburg Festival, 1995, Peter Konwitschny in Hamburg, 2002, and Stefan Herheim in Stuttgart, 2009. The criteria for selecting these productions were as follows: first, they each feature prominently in discussions about this opera, representing, as they do, the most sensational productions of recent decades; second, the three motifs in which I am interested all play a prominent role in the complex of ideas that went into their interpretations; third, related materials, such as videos, programmes and reviews, are available in the archives for all three.
Methodologically, this article follows the kind of structural analysis that is commonly found in theatre theory. Recently, the analysis of the opera has focused more on the phenomenological elements such as voice, time and reactions between the stage and the audience. However, it is beyond the scope of this contribution to examine these as well as to generalize on modern productions. Instead of phenomenological aspects, this article investigates hermeneutic aspects of the original production of Der Rosenkavalier and clarifies relationships between and among this and the modern productions identified above. The remainder of this paper is organised as follows: a) a description of the attitudes of directors towards the original production and basic functions of the three central motifs in the text and music; b) analysis of the three productions with a focus on transformations of the three central motifs; c) a comparison of the three productions.
Original Production, 1911
The original production of 1911 was based on three kinds of texts: the score, the libretto and the direction book (Regiebuch). Hofmannsthal and Roller published the direction book at the same time as the score and the libretto. While, in the score and libretto, almost identical stage directions are written, the direction book includes some differences because it was edited from a practical standpoint after the first performance. Furthermore, there are some traditional actions that have become accepted through reception history. Even if their origins are unknown, they are assumed to have been practised since the 1930s, because Lotte Lehmann, one of the pivotal soprano singers of Strauss’ time, handed them down as traditional actions in her autobiography.
Studying attitudes towards the original stage direction has been a classic problem in opera-staging studies: it has resulted in notorious disputes about Werktreue (faithfulness to the original) and Regietheater (director’s theatre). In the case of Der Rosenkavalier, Roller’s concept was handed down as “the original”, and conservative directors and opera houses often still keep with tradition through reproducing it as closely as possible. However, this approach seems to have lost ground in the last decades as scholars and directors have revealed the impossibility of defining the “original”, let alone of reproducing any such ur-version with complete fidelity.
Peter Konwitschny has explained his attitude towards these concepts in the following terms. He suggests that the music of the opera has become obsolete only very slowly, therefore it remains apprehensible despite being composed over one hundred years ago. By contrast, the stage directions became rapidly out-of-date owing to historical transition. When the circumstances or contexts that generated them were lost, the validity of the stage directions expired. As a result of this, in his productions he felt the need to translate the stage directions into forms closer to the experiences of contemporary audiences. According to Konwitschny, it is even permissible for directors to modify the spoken or sung texts, if necessary, in order to achieve this connection with contemporary experience. His directions are intended to present the “truths” of the work behind the “patina” of its outdated text.
Herbert Wernicke has also explained his treatment of the original texts for his production of Der Rosenkavalier. On the one hand, his 1995 production followed the stage directions where these are fixed precisely by the opera’s music and libretto. On the other hand, he tried to make “the idea of this work tangible ‘for us’ at another level”. While singers’ actions in his production conform to the original stage directions more than in the other two productions, the visual concept does not correspond to the original.
Taking yet another approach, Stefan Herheim tried not so much to convey “the truth” behind the work as to undermine the very concept of authoritative interpretation by the juxtaposition of diverse elements from the work. In his production, diverse motifs including sources from various other works and authors as well as from the opera’s own reception history are juxtaposed on the stage, and spoken and sung texts are sometimes added.
Before examining the three modern productions in greater detail, it is important to outline the significance of the three main motifs identified as central to the concept of the work in its original manifestation.
Rococo: The Rococo motifs and scenery are based on the setting of this opera: Vienna in the 1740s, the time of Maria Theresa, as recreated meticulously by Roller. For early twentieth-century audiences, this period and style signified nostalgia for the past splendours of the Habsburg Monarchy. Understandably, the Vienna State Opera maintained Roller’s scenery through more than half a century until the production by Otto Schenk in 1968. Even after this, the Rococo scenery still remained prevalent, although modern productions have increased in number in the last decades. In its reception history, the Rococo scenery has become not “a part of the productions”, but “a part of this work”.
Harry Kessler, Hofmannsthal’s prominent collaborator, played an important role with regards to the visual elements of this work. Michael Reynolds has argued that Der Rosenkavalier originated in the operetta, L’Ingénu libertin by Louis Artus (libretto) and Claude Terrasse (music). The plot of this operetta was derived from the Les Amours du Chevalier de Faublas, an erotic novel of the eighteenth century. After watching a performance of the operetta in 1905 in Paris, Kessler relayed in detail to Hofmannsthal its scenario and scenic developments. According to Reynolds, a significant number of similarities between the opera and the operetta are to be found, not only in the scenario but also in the scenery and costumes. Kessler’s first specific suggestions for Der Rosenkavalier were inspired by the ballet Le Pavillon d’Armide of the Ballets Russes (1907) which was notable for its theme of enchantment – an idea also associated with the first scene of the operetta. It is remarkable that he also proposed a mixture of imagery from two different eras by suggesting a fusion of the “baroque with the Beardsley’s colour” as an image of Der Rosenkavalier.
In addition to the visual aspects, Strauss’ use of musical forms such as the aria, duet, and trio also evoke the eighteenth century. The march of Mohammed, the young page of the Marschallin, at the beginning of the first act and the end of the third evokes the Rococo style. The use of chamber music, thereby thinning down the late romantic sonorities, also creates an atmosphere of the Rococo; examples of this include the music during the breakfast (vocal score, rehearsal figure 48) and that before the Marschallin’s monologue in F major in the first act (vocal score, rehearsal figure 272). The latter signifies the Marschallin’s reminiscence of her girlhood through a quotation of the musical style of the eighteenth century. These musical elements complement Roller’s scenery, especially in the first act.
Rose: In the scenario, the silver rose symbolizes the marriage of Baron Ochs and Sophie through its aristocratic connotation. In the first act, the Baron brings the silver rose to the Marschallin, and in the second act Octavian gives it to Sophie in the ceremony of the silver rose. Additionally, in some traditional productions, the Marschallin takes the silver rose from its case during her monologue in the first act. Several attempts have been made to identify the origin of the ceremony of the silver rose. William Mann suggested a relationship to the ceremony of the golden rose in medieval times in which, as a symbol of virtue, the Pope sent a golden rose with balsam and musk to women on the Sunday of their marriages. Likewise, previous studies have suggested other topoi for the rose. On the one hand, in earlier traditions, it signifies mortal and heavenly love. On the other hand, in the context of the culture around 1900, it symbolized the flourishing and transience of life. Therefore, the silver rose in Der Rosenkavalier could be seen as connoting any and all of these ambivalent images.
Mirror: The mirror is especially associated with the monologue of the Marschallin in the first act. She looks at herself in her hand mirror during her morning dressing. This makes her perceive her old age and induces melancholia. During the monologue, she sees herself in the mirror again. The mirror does not have any musical motif, but the Marschallin says “No mirror but shows it [time] to us” (rehearsal figure 309). After Octavian, her young lover, leaves her, she looks disappointedly again at her face in the mirror at the end of this act. This gesture with the mirror is unwritten in the original text but is a standard in some traditional productions. The hand mirror seems to be the trigger for the Marschallin’s realisation of her old age and the cause of her resignation.
Herbert Wernicke, 1995
Herbert Wernicke’s production in 1995 was a challenge for the Salzburg Festival because it broke the tradition of the classical model of production by Rudolf Hartmann, used since 1960. Wernicke thought that he should not put the story in the time of Maria Theresa because doing so, although embedded in the original concept of this work, does not allow any room for interpretation by directors.  Wernicke rejected the historical scenery in order to reinvigorate the tradition by interpreting the eighteenth century as “the time when one still dreamed of another”. Therefore, he thought that the resemblance commonly noted between this work and Le Nozze di Figaro was valid only in the sense of the eroticism, born out of desire, disguise and disillusionment, that they both evoke. In his production, Rococo motifs are reduced in the first act to elements such as a set of furniture and the costumes of the Marschallin’s servants. On the stage, the huge mirror wall variously reflects the splendid red wall in the Rococo style, the magnificent white wall in the baroque style, and the Hotel Imperial in Vienna. According to Albrecht Puhlmann, in the dramaturgy of this production, Wernicke had originally planned to introduce the scenery by Roller as a part of his own scenery to imply attitudes of the reception history of this work. However, after learning the music of the opera in detail, the idea of this mirror wall came to him.
The mirror plays a central role and has multiple significances in this production. On the one hand, the mirror wall literally ‘reflects’ society; on the other hand, it illuminates one’s inner thoughts on issues such as narcissism, self-recognition and self-reflection.  In other words, the stage with its huge mirror has both to embody the imagined scenery and stand as a “metaphor for seeking self-presentation, self-referentiality: self-imprisonment”. It also functions as an illusion “broken through the longing glimpse of those who were expelled from the old-time”. The illusion of the past could be broken by the sight of the spectators who cannot go back to their past and can only desire the past reflected on the stage. Therefore, this scenery shows only fragments of the illusion of the past. Consequently, the characters of Der Rosenkavalier also appear as the afterglow of this desire.
In this production, the mirror has a further significance; it is also associated with modern women. The opera programme shows various quotations from Western literature and images related to the theme “Vergänglichkeit (transience)” to associate beauty and old age as perceived in 1911 and during the intervening years to 1995. For instance, the programme features photographs in which two iconic twentieth-century women, Marlene Dietrich and Maria Callas, see themselves in the mirror, as the Marschallin does in the first act. In addition, five photographs, The Brown Sisters by Nicholas Nixon, show how four sisters gradually aged between 1975 and 1987. The ageing of the near-contemporary women in these photographs is linked to the opera through a quotation from the Marschallin’s monologue that is placed beside these photographs: “But can it be — can it be — though I say it so, That I was that young Tess of long ago”.
In Wernicke’s production as finally realized, two aspects of the mirror are underlined. One is the way it represents reality without itself being that reality – a paradox which symbolizes the contradictions of modern society. No one tries to see reality directly but only seeks it in the particular illusion of reality that they find most comforting. In the first scene, the mirror wall faces the front and reflects the stage and auditorium. Then, it turns inwards and reflects the image of the bedroom with the red wall in the Rococo style. At the end of this act, the mirror reflects the stage and auditorium again. In the ceremony of the silver rose, the central part of the huge mirror wall opens, and Octavian appears as Rosenkavalier from the dark empty room. In the third act, the wall reflects not only the walls of the Hotel Imperial but also a huge bed. Furthermore, this repeated shifting affects the audience. Since the mirror reflects them as spectators, they also see themselves ‘inside the production’ on the waving surface of the mirror because the mirror wall frequently moves. It makes the audience realize their own transient existence. The mirror shows the singers and the audience themselves as they see reality: indirectly, fleetingly and unreliably.
Another aspect is the darkness behind the mirror. The illusion always stays for the Baron as social background, while it appears for the Marschallin, Octavian, and Sophie as a superficial and more changeable illusion. The mirror image vanishes from the stage during the ceremony of the silver rose as the mirror walls open from its centre. In this process, the spectators can see not an image, but only a huge staircase in the dark empty room behind the mirror. This scene, on the one hand, breaks the illusory surface of the mirror but, on the other, it presents us with another clichéd image from our cultural memory-bank of fantasy and wish-fulfilment. It could be seen as Wernicke’s ironic interpretation of the illusion inherent in modern society, as some reviews associated it with cinematic images. Gerhard Koch described this gesture as “cinematic”, perceiving in it “the reminiscence of the witty Busby Berkeley’s Hollywood Revue”. Gabriele Luster described this scene negatively as “Wernicke’s bold greeting from Hollywood”.  Michael Stenger associated this staircase with the “Broadway staircase” and interpreted it as a symbol for “Sophie’s desire for her first love” and a “young girl’s dream”.
Alternatively, the darkness behind the mirror could be interpreted in a psychological or philosophical sense. Wolfgang Schreiber described it as “insubstantial black night”. Wernicke has transposed the musical motif of the silver rose to this dark room. It is the “nothingness” behind the elusive “real world” that reveals itself only at this moment in the production. The rose symbolizes artificiality and insubstantiality through the harmony of three flutes, three solo violins, harp, and celesta. This musical motif is repeated at the end of the third act, as the image on the mirror finally vanishes from the stage. The Marschallin notices this illusion at the end of the first act as she sees herself in the mirror. On the other hand, Octavian and Sophie do not notice this emptiness since they are absorbed and enchanted by the fruition of their love.
In this production, the silver rose is exchanged with a red rose which Mohammed, the Marschallin’s page, brings. He appears not in his normal guise as “a little servant negro”, but as a clown in a white costume like the Gilles by Antoine Watteau quoted in the programme, but whose face is painted black.[45v] His appearance reminded Siegfried Schibli of the production by Ruth Berghaus in Frankfurt in 1992 in which Mohammed appears as a clown of the Triadisches Ballett by Oskar Schlemmer. According to Hans Hofstätter, in literary history, the clown symbolizes the “sensitiveness and poetical escapism of the nineteenth century, which threatens to break the bourgeois expediency”. Frieder Reininghaus and Gerhard Koch noticed a connection to a near-contemporary work of Der Rosenkavalier, Pierrot Lunaire (1912) by Arnold Schoenberg, which depicts sentimental and perverse images of the clown.
The clown of Wernicke’s production conveys these traditional images and acts like an outsider watching the progress of the story, as in Berghaus’ production. After the prelude, he emerges before the curtain and opens it. By doing so, he takes the spectators into the world of the opera. At the end of the first act, he appears again to take the silver rose jokingly to Octavian. Having done so, he glances at the case of the silver rose and leaves the stage. At the end of the third act, he silently closes the curtain to bring the story to its end. These humorous actions give this production the meta-theatrical aspect in the tradition of the commedia dell’arte as well as the Vienna Volkstheater (folk theatre), both of which make a feature of breaking the illusion on the stage and changing the relationship between auditorium and stage. Moreover, the clown’s black painted face symbolizes the controversial theatre tradition of “black facing” and the rest of the illusion inherited in the reception history of this work. At the last moment of this production, the clown wipes his face off with a handkerchief. Through this, he is released from the aspects of his role that sit somewhat uncomfortably in late twentieth-century mores. Wernicke’s production therefore not only gives him greater agency than usual throughout but also dissociates itself from the “black-face” tradition. It could be argued that it also underlines that, in having his face blackened, the clown/Mohammed is just adopting a role – as is our universal fate as members of modern society, in which everyone is obliged to act their role.
After the ceremony of the silver rose, Sophie keeps it in her hand until the third act. In the final scene of the third act, the clown comes close to Sophie and Octavian, who lie on the floor and raise the silver rose with their hands together. Without their realising it, the clown exchanges it with a red rose. After a while, the clown throws the silver rose on the floor and picks up the white handkerchief dropped not by Sophie, but by Octavian. The silver rose symbolizes artificial life as well as the imaginative past. However, at this moment, it changes to the red rose which symbolizes the flourishing of life but also its transience. Ironically, this transformation happens as a result not of the conscious intentions of Sophie and Octavian, but of the arbitrariness of the clown.
Peter Konwitschny, 2002
Peter Konwitschny staged Der Rosenkavalier in Hamburg in 2002, but had planned his concept for it in 1985 for unrealized productions in Gelsenkirchen and Altenburg. In his production, all three acts are placed in different historical periods and in grotesque atmospheres; the first act is set on a huge round bed in the eighteenth century, the second is on a revolving stage in the Bauhaus style of the 1920s, while the third shows an empty contemporary film studio and an unidentified main shopping street in the foreseeable future. Konwitschny selects the Baron as the only character who comes from the eighteenth century. In this plot, the Baron time-travels through the acts. The travesty nature of the role of Octavian- a young man portrayed by a mezzo-soprano who, shortly after the beginning of the opera, must take on female disguise – is seen in this production not as an outmoded theatrical convention but as a device necessary to accentuate the gender problems of the modern age. The Rococo period is interpreted as the time before modernization, when humans still had intimate relationships with each other. The Baron appears throughout in his traditional red costume and wig in the Rococo style by Roller, symbolizing the enduring vitality of this period. While other characters appear in different costumes in each act, the Baron stays as he is throughout.
This characterization of the Baron was intended to remove the stereotypical ridiculous mask of this character. At the premiere, Kurt Moll (1938–2017), one of the prominent singers for this role at that time, sang the role as his last production. In reviews, his performance was described as having an “adorable, engaging, and humorous vitality”. This characterization is shaped through resonances between Moll the singer and the traditional characterization of the role with which he was so strongly associated. The spectators accepted the Baron not only through how he is traditionally portrayed in this opera but also through the specific personality of this particular singer. Götz Thieme identified the Baron in this production with Moll himself and described him as follows: “[…] the vigour of this figure fades to a lost sadness which seems equally to overcome the actor himself. Kurt Moll slips out of character, he is no longer immersed in the role, he does not perform its words and notes with the same total identification of his great years”. Reinald Hanke associated the calm characterization of the Baron with the calmness of Moll as well:
There is no need for Moll to act the anachronism of this role; he himself embodies it. And his creative power is still second to none. When Ochs sings quietly, almost rapturously, of his infatuation at the end of the second act, unsuspecting of the dirty trick that will soon be played on him, then this affects us to such a degree that every Bravo sticks in the throat.
The “Rococo” is shown in the scenery of the first act, in which all musicians of the orchestra and the conductor also wear costumes and wigs, as in the baroque theatre. The orchestra pit ascends and only the string players remain there, while the other players are on the stage. The huge round red bed is in the centre of the orchestra pit in the way of the amphitheatre. The orchestral musicians sometimes sing and act together with the singers on the bed not only to show intimacy, but also to expose the unnatural relationship in the opera between the music and the stage in general.
However, the scenery and costumes are only superficially in the Rococo style, without luxurious decorations. They reflect only a nostalgic view from our own age of society in the eighteenth century. As the Baron tries to charm the Marschallin and Octavian, the modern women, it does not result in intimacy, rather it causes tension between them because they cannot understand the Baron who truly comes from the Rococo period. People come into the Marschallin’s private space and their antics on the huge bed reveal the Marschallin’s grotesque modern world. It is a completely different situation from the original production because there is no border between private and public space.
In this production, the silver rose is transformed into a red rose brought by Octavian as he comes to the Marschallin in the first act again. After he leaves the bed, the Marschallin takes the silver rose from the case and exchanges it with this red rose. After that, the Marschallin commits suicide by an overdose. At the beginning of the second act, Octavian is deeply drunk because of her death. Then, during the ritual of the silver rose, he is surprised to find the red rose in the case and throws it on the ground. Sophie and Octavian smell not the rose, but the alcohol bottle he brings to distance himself from the sentimentality of this scene.
This red rose appears again in the last scene of the third act. The scenery of the final scene is the main shopping street of a modern city on a snowy night. There is nothing on display except a showcase of female mannequins under the neon light. Octavian, Sophie, and the Marschallin stand as lifeless mannequins wearing bobbed hair wigs and underwear under white fur coats. Regarding this act, Konwitschny quoted from Walter Benjamin in the programme: “the copy is the original”. All liveliness, vitality, and wildness disappear from the stage and only loneliness, lifelessness and emptiness remain. After the three women expel the Baron, they are left with only the desolation of this world. Reduced to three mannequins, they exist ambiguously between humanity and a mere plastic counterfeit of it. The Marschallin has the red rose, but it is frozen and has lost its life. The near future of this scene represents the pessimistic view of the director about the present day. This snowy scene chimes with the musical motif of the silver rose repeated in this scene. At the last phrase of the Marschallin “in the name of God,” they put their hands on the rose, but after that, go back into the showcase. The rose falls to the concrete ground and breaks into pieces.
During the trio, the Marschallin does not take farewell of her young lover, but these three women renounce their future – a future which could only be brought by communication with outsiders. The Baron’s expulsion might finally mean, in Konwitschny’s words, the “possibility of reproduction by two women without a man”. Instead, it results not in new life, but death. The extreme radical development of modern society might destroy society itself. A possible explanation for this might be that the Baron signifies not only men in the sense of co-agents of reproduction, but also the outsider, echoing but also perhaps providing the antidote to the wildness and strangeness of modern society. If human beings were to lose the ability to reproduce, they could survive only as their copies. However, in this case, there is no difference between the original and the copy. The three women are wrecks of modern humanity; fictions, and metaphors as well. 
The transparent shop window separates the mannequins from the other characters, such as Herr von Faninal and Mohammed. After the last duet by Octavian and Sophie, Faninal comes as a mere passer-by with his dog. He cannot understand how or why the Marschallin in the showcase responds to his murmur. While the pale light becomes weaker and weaker, Mohammed as an old street-cleaner takes pieces of the rose and places them in his plastic rubbish bag. The musical motif of the silver rose is repeated during the last duet. The frozen rose looks like the silver rose in the winter night, as Konwitschny wrote in the programme that the red rose must revert to the original silver one.
In this production, the red rose signifies true love between Octavian and the Marschallin. It returns to the Marschallin in the last scene after Octavian throws it on the ground in the second act. but as a result of the decline of society, it loses its life. Finally, it is binned by the old Mohammed. This progress symbolizes the tragic end not only for the three women but also for the modern world.
Contrary to the other two productions, the mirror does not play a central role in this production. The mirror reflects the Marschallin’s funny painted face by her little hairdresser, but during the monologue scene of the first act, she sees not the mirror, but the diary of her girlhood. Nevertheless, interpreting the mirror as an allegory of the transience of life itself, the time travelling, which provides the framing structure of this production, might be viewed as a metaphor for the mirror, in that premonitions and reminiscences are also reflections, but in the temporal, rather than the visual, sphere.
Stefan Herheim, 2009
Stefan Herheim staged his production in Stuttgart in 2009. He might have known at least the production by Wernicke since his dramaturge Xavier Zuber mentions that production in the programme, and Albrecht Puhlmann was the chief of the opera section in Stuttgart at that time. Both productions are similar in that the mirror plays a crucial role as a visual motif. In contrast, it is unknown whether Herheim was familiar with the production by Konwitschny, but he may well have been influenced by Konwitschny, particularly as, having decided to become an opera director, he could have known Konwitschny’s productions through the reviews of critics.
Two remarkable features of Herheim’s production are the blue and silver scenery in the form of a hooped skirt, as worn by the Marschallin, and a collage of four mythological paintings. Through these devices, Herheim tried to expand the Rococo motif to encompass the mythological erotic baroque world. The collage consists of paintings in both the Rococo style of the eighteenth century and the historicism of the nineteenth century. The left-hand painting is the Triumph of Ariadne (1873–74) by Hans Makart, while the right-hand one is The Rape of Europa (1750) by Jean-Baptiste Marie Pierre. It is difficult to see from the auditorium, but there are two more paintings, one on each side; Nymphs and Satyr (1873) and The Return of Spring (1886) by William-Adolphe Bouguereau. The relevance of the theme of the Rape of Europa lies in the Aria by the Baron who desires to transform his appearance in a variety of ways, as did Jupiter when in pursuit of a fresh amorous conquest. Significantly, the god’s choice of animal for his seduction of Europa was that of a bull/ox (ox in German is Ochse, strengthening further the Baron’s self-identification with the deity).
The Triumph of Ariadne by Hans Makart, who was a popular painter in the historicist style in Vienna in the 1870s, depicts the scene of Bacchus receiving Ariadne as his bride. In the painting, one can see, at the outset, the almost naked Ariadne who confidently raises her left hand. Her appearance is echoed by the Marschallin in the third act as she emerges holding the silver rose in her hand as though a goddess. Bacchus stands traditionally in the centre as in Bacchus and Ariadne (1520–1523) by Titian (1490–1576). However, in Makart’s work, Ariadne is placed at the top of the pyramid in the centre. She is drawn not as a sexual object, but as the subject, while Bacchus plays a female role besides her. The darkness of the forest spreads on the left side, while the sea spreads on the right side. Satyrs, Nymphs, Cupids, and animals frolic around Ariadne and Bacchus. For this production, the painting was additionally modified. The red robe of the original painting covering Ariadne’s body was transformed into a white one and the tiger under Ariadne became an ox (again, referencing the Baron’s surname as well as linking this painting to The Rape of Europa). Finally, the daylight sky of the original became the night sky of a dream.
The Rape of Europa by Jean-Baptiste Marie Pierre is based on the story of Metamorphoses by Ovid and describes Jupiter, disguised as an ox, abducting Europa. Europa, in a white dress under a red robe, elegantly rides on the shoulder of the ox. Men, women and Cupids surround Europa and Jupiter and decorative roses float in the sky. In the production, the pastel colours of the original work are transformed into dark colours, as with Markart’s work. Europa wears a blue costume under a red veil, and a circle of stars floats behind her head. Through this, her appearance could be associated variously with the Virgin Mary, the Queen of the Night from Die Zauberflöte and even the European Union, in the sense of the iconography of the EU flag. Nymphs and Satyr (1873) depicts a satyr trying to catch nymphs, but he is instead caught by them and drawn into the water. In The return of Spring, cupids float around a naked nymph. This work was damaged twice (in 1890 and 1976) because it seemed to be too sensual for the spectators. This episode could also evoke resonances with the production in that it suggests the passions aroused under the veneer of morality in bourgeois society.
Female mythological characters play the main role in these four paintings. Consequently, the Marschallin’s sexual desire is set as the background of this production.
Some characters emerge from these paintings onto the stage. Satyrs appear as the first onstage characters of this production as these background paintings are illuminated at the beginning of the first fanfare. One of them plays the silent characters of the opera, including Mohammed, Leopold, and the Flutist. The other characters, except Octavian and Sophie, appear in animal costumes, especially in the first act. The Italian Singer appears as a knight in silver armour and the feathers of a swan. In the sense of mythological painting and the baroque, he might be Bacchus as well as the Deus ex machina of the baroque opera. He also plays the Marschallin’s husband, the Marschall, and appears from the white mist, as if he has come from another world. This effect might imply that only the Marschallin can see him. The tonality of his aria is Db–Major, as in the last trio in the third act, and has a similar theme to the trio: unfulfilled desire.
This staging visualizes “the unfilled, desire, resignation, and love as an object of the fervent contemplation” of the Marschallin. The Italian Singer in the guise of a knight could be one of the characters from her past whom the Marschallin could neither get nor lose. His appearance mirrors another knightly operatic character, Lohengrin, who also cannot accomplish his desire and has to leave his lover. Götz Thieme interpreted the Italian Singer as “half King Ludwig, half imperial eagle”. As Harth Beth suggested, the Marschallin embodies not only Empress Maria Theresia, but also the melancholic and tragic personality of Empress Elisabeth. In this sense, he suggests that, in Herheim’s production, the way the Italian Singer is presented implies an allegory of the Marschall, Ludwig II., Lohengrin, and even the Habsburg Monarchy itself.
The intensification of the music also influences some of the characters on the stage as one of them falls in a faint at the musical climax. Some characters, who are enchanted, manipulated and made to suffer by voices, also symbolize the power of music. Besides Octavian, the satyr is the most closely connected with music. He plays different instruments on the stage (horn, flute, and violin) and suffers during the last trio as though he cannot endure the musical texture. His pain might be primarily a metaphor for the Marschallin’s contemplation since he dies after her resignation. As mentioned above, the tonality of this trio, Db–Major, signifies the sublime and religious atmosphere in works by Strauss. The Marschallin narrates her sense of loss as in the Italian Singer’s aria, a parallel that Herheim finds essential in this opera. According to Starobinski, the sense of loss and disappointed desire is a classical function since the birth of opera itself. In this sense, the appearance and voice of the Marschall not only remind us of the Marschallin’s memory about the Marschall and her desire for the past, but are also associated with our own memories as spectators. This brings the audience into the shared experience of as contemplation.
A remarkable feature of this production is that the silver rose is made of the mirror. At the beginning of this production, in the darkness, the Marschallin breaks with her fist the mirror on her makeup table, enraged at the way in which it reflects her distorted face. Her dream world appears as she rejects her old age, and it ends as she accepts it. The story could be an internal rite-of-passage towards acceptance of her old age. The satyr makes the silver rose from pieces of the mirror during the first act. It becomes a magic wand in this dream world. In the third act, the Marschallin appears again with the silver rose – the moment already described where she evokes the image of Ariadne in Makart’s painting. The satyr receives the rose from the Marschallin and gives it to Ochs, but he throws it down on the ground angrily before his exit. The rose shatters into pieces again.
After the last trio, the Marschallin accepts exiting her dream world and watches from her balcony seat, now become a spectator herself, as Octavian and Sophie are united on the stage. The Satyr is in despair at her exit from her dream world and the destruction of the silver rose. Sophie comforts him, and Octavian scatters pieces of the rose. In spite of this, the Satyr eats these pieces and falls to the ground during the last duet. However, in the coda, he stands up again and shakes the white handkerchief to respond ironically to the expectation of the spectators. The mythological creature lives in someone’s dream world, although he dies on this occasion for the Marschallin. He might yet appear in the future dream world of Sophie, the young Marschallin, as the mirror reflects the similarity between Sophie and the Marschallin.  It is difficult to tell the difference between these two characters at first glance because they wear similar blue dresses and silver wigs. The most remarkable example of this confusion comes at the beginning of the final trio in the third act: The Marschallin approaches Sophie and gives her her blue dress, and then Octavian calls not the Marschallin, but Sophie “Marie Theres’!”. Sophie shows a cloudy expression because she might begin to fear for her future at this moment.
This study has revealed that the three productions of Der Rosenkavalier selected for discussion have each accentuated the significance of this work for current spectators through their very imaginative and individual takes on the opera’s three central motifs.
Firstly, the illusory nature of the Rococo motif is exposed. Wernicke transforms it into the mirror wall, while Herheim expands it into the grotesque and surrealistic baroque world. In contrast, Konwitschny accentuates the aspect of the Rococo as an intimate and delicate style preceding the expansion of industrialization and modernization.
Secondly, the mirror which reflects the Marschallin’s face is transformed into a device either reflecting the character’s inner side or revealing the problems of modern society. The mirror of Wernicke’s production reflects not only the landscapes of Vienna but also the singers and, at times, the audience. The relation between image and reality is thereby shown to be fluid and ambiguous, whether we are talking about the clichés of old Vienna or the indirection of our modern society. Both Konwitschny and Herheim use the mirror to show a distorted reflection of the Marschallin’s face. While Konwitschny does not particularly emphasise the role of the mirror, Herheim develops Wernicke’s concept and employs it as a dominant motif for his production, signifying similarity, desire, and fear.
Lastly, ambivalent images of the rose and its ironical implications are accentuated in all three productions. Both Wernicke and Konwitschny exchange the silver rose for a red one. The red rose symbolizes true but transient love. While Wernicke implies its relationship to the transient but urgently vital love between Sophie and Octavian, a modern young couple, Konwitschny shows it as a symbol of the tragic end of modern Western society. In Herheim’s production, the silver rose is made of pieces of the mirror, reflecting the Marschallin’s dream world. Like Konwitschny’s production, his also ends with the destruction of the rose which, in this case, seems to allude to the Marschallin’s resignation of the dream world and yielding of her true love to another.
The transformations wrought by these three directors serve to show Der Rosenkavalier in a different light from its traditional presentations. They demonstrate that, for all its apparent superficialities, it is a work that has the capacity to speak to the inner nature of modern society. In taking liberties with the traditional, and arguably tired, staging conventions, all three directors find fresh insights and darker undertones in Strauss’ comic opera. The fact that, in doing so, they frequently reference features of the traditional staging, but in a subverted or transmogrified form, only adds to the richness of the new perspectives they reveal. As the reviews quoted here show, the reactions of the critics to their efforts reflect the courage needed to “meddle” with a much-loved warhorse of the operatic repertoire but also the rewards that can come from doing so. Although inevitably limited in its scope, the hope is that this study will add to the growing body of research that explores diversities and relationships between canonical works of the operatic stage and their reinterpretation in modern productions.
 This research is sponsored by a Scholarship from the Nomura Foundation (October 2017 to March 2018).
 Norman Del Mar, Richard Strauss: A Critical Commentary on His Life and Works. 1 (London: Barrie and Jenkins, 1978), See also: Reinhold Schlötterer, ed., Musik und Theater im “Rosenkavalier” von Richard Strauss (Wien, 1985). See also about the original staging: Evan Baker, From the score to the stage: an illustrated history of continental opera production and staging (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2013); Manfred Wagner, Alfred Roller in seiner Zeit (Salzburg, Wien: Residenz Verlag, 1996).
 Michael Reynolds, The Theatrical Vision of Count Harry Kessler and its Impact on the Strauss-Hofmannsthal Partnership (Goldsmiths: University of London, PhD Dissertation, 2013). See also: Der Rosenkavalier: Komödie für Musik: Textfassungen und Zeilenkommentar, Dirk Hoffmann/Ingeborg Haase/Artur Hartlieb–Wallthor, eds (Wien: Hollitzer, 2016).
 The Opera Quarterly 29 (2013) discussed “Staging Antiquity” as its main topic and has shown an increasing interest in opera scholarship in general.
 Mark Schachtsiek discussed this theme in his article “»Missachtung von Form ist Verlust an Sinn«. Von Ruth Berghaus’ besonderem Umgang mit der Kunstform Oper,” Realistisches Musiktheater: Walter Felsenstein: Geschichte, Erben, Gegenpositionen, Werner Hintze ed. (Berlin: Theater Der Zeit, 2008), pp.188–202 and in his unpublished Masters thesis “Eine wienerische Maskerad und weiter nichts?” Szenische Auseinandersetzungen von Ruth Berghaus, Peter Konwitschny und Sebastian Baumgarten mit Richard Strauss’ Der Rosenkavalier (Magisterarbeit an der Freien Universität Berlin, 2006). It is unpublished because of copyright restrictions and is readable only in the Archive of the Akademie der Künste Berlin.
 The video recording in the Archive of the Salzburg Festival. Premiere: July 30, 1995. Salzburg Festival. Conductor: Lorin Maazel, Direction/Set and Costume Design: Herbert Wernicke, Dramaturgy: Albrecht Puhlmann, Light: Werner Breitenfelder.
 The video recording of the Hamburg State Opera. Premiere: May 12, 2002 Hamburg State Opera. Conductor: Ingo Metzmacher, Direction: Peter Konwitschny, Dramaturgy: Jörg-Michael Koerbl, Set and Costume Design: Gabriele Koerbl, Light: Hans Toelstede.
 The video recording of the Stuttgart State Opera. Premiere: November 1, 2009. Stuttgart State Opera. Conductor: Manfred Honeck, Direction: Stefan Herheim, Dramaturgy: Xavier Zuber, Set Design: Rebecca Ringst, Costume Design: Gesine Völlm, Light: Olaf Freese.
 This analysis is based on the video recordings in the Archive of Salzburg Festival (Premiere: 30.07.1995. Salzburg Festival), Decca 2009 (Premiere: January 1, 2009. The Festspielhaus Baden-Baden. Video Direction: Large, Brian. DVD-Video. DECCA 2009), The Archive of the Hamburg State Opera (Premiere: May 12, 2002. Hamburg State Opera), The Stuttgart State Opera (Recorded in 2015. Stuttgart State Opera). The stage photos of these productions are omitted for copyright restrictions and financial reasons in this article.
 Christopher Balme, Einführung in die Theaterwissenschaft (Berlin: Schmidt, 2014, originally 1999). See also Erika Fischer-Lichte, Performativität: Eine Einführung (Bielefeld: Transcript Verlag, 2012).
 Carolyn Abbate, “Music–Drastic or Gnostic?”, Critical Inquiry 30, no. 3 (2004), pp. 505–36; Clemens Risi, “Opera in Performance—In Search of New Analytical Approaches,” The Opera Quarterly 27, no.2–3 (2012), pp.283–295. See also: Clemens Risi, Oper in performance. Analysen zur Aufführungsdimension von Operninszenierungen (Berlin: Theater der Zeit, 2017).
 Alfred Roller, Der Rosenkavalier. Komödie für Musik von Hugo v. Hofmannsthal. Musik von Richard Strauss. Regieskizze (Berlin, Paris: Fürstner, 1910), in: Hugo von Hofmannsthal, Sämtliche Werke Kritische Ausgabe. XXIV: Operndichtungen 2, edited by Manfred Hoppe (Frankfurt am Main: S. Fischer, 1985), pp. 550–572.
 Lotte Lehmann, My Many Lives (London, New York: Boosey and Hawks, 1948).
 Brunner Gerhard/Sarah Zalfen ed., Werktreue: Was Ist Werk, Was Treue? (Böhlau, 2011).
 Peter Konwitschny, “Was ist ein Werk? Was ist Treue? Was ist Werktreue?”, Werktreue: Was Ist Werk, Was Ist Treue?, ed. Brunner Gerhard/Sarah Zalfen (Böhlau, 2011), pp.99–105.
 Der Rosenkavalier (Programmheft) (Salzburger Festspiele, 1995), pp.18–19.
 Detlef Brandenburg. “Wir Juweliere”, Die Deutsche Bühne 11, (2009), pp.28–29.
 The Metropolitan Opera finally replaced its long-running production by Nathaniel Merril (1969) with the modern production by Robert Carsen 2017, following its first presentation at the Royal Opera House in 2016.
 Jürgen Schläder/Rainer Francke, “Richard Strauss: Rosenkavalier (1911)”, Piper Enzyklopädie des Musiktheaters: Spontini: Agnes von Hohenstaufen bis Zumsteeg: Die Geisterinsel (München, Zürich: Piper Verlag, 1997), pp.101–102.
 Reynolds, The Theatrical Vision of Count Harry Kessler and its Impact on the Strauss-Hofmannsthal Partnership, pp.121–124, here pp.190–207.
 Letter from Harry Graf Kessler to Hofmannsthal on June 14, 1909, Sämtliche Werke XXXIII. Reden und Aufsätze 2, ed. Konrad Heumann/Ellen Ritter/Klaus–Dieter Krabie (Frankfurt am Main: S. Fischer, 2009), p.610.
 Richard Strauss, Der Rosenkavalier. Komödie für Musik von Hugo von Hofmannsthal. Arrangement von Otto Singer. Vollständiger Klavier–Auszug mit deutschem Text (Berlin, Paris: Adoplph Fürstner, 1911).
 Hasse Hoffmann/Hartlieb-Wallthor ed., Der Rosenkavalier: Komödie für Musik: Textfassungen und Zeilenkommentar, pp.164–166.
 William Mann, Richard Strauss. A Critical Study of the Opera (London, 1964), p.99.
 Hasse Hoffmann/Hartlieb-Wallthor ed., Der Rosenkavalier, p.166.
 Wolfdietrich Rasch, “Jahrhundertwende im ‚Rosenkavalier’,” Mitteilungen der Internationalen Richard-Strauss-Gesellschaft 53 (1967), p.3.
 English translations of the libretto are followed by Richard Strauss, Der Rosenkavalier. (The Rose–Bearer) Comedy for Music in three Acts by Hugo von Hofmannsthal. English Version by Alfred Kalisch. Vocal Score with English and German Words (London: Boosey & Hawkes, 1912).
 Lehmann, My Many Lives, pp.237–238.
 The recording in 1995 provides the general view of the stage from a fixed camera in front of the stage, therefore the details of the stage can hardly be seen. In contrast, in the recording in 2009, the details are much more apparent, but it is difficult to take the general view. Additionally, scenic photographs and reviews are profitable to analyze this production. The Archive of the Salzburg Festival, the Austrian Theater Museum in Vienna and the German Theater Museum in Munich own the scenic photographs.
 This production was produced for the opening of the Großes Festspielhaus and after that it was performed several times (1961, 1963, 1964, and 1969), filmed in 1961, and reproduced by Karajan in 1983.
 “Gespräch mit dem Dramaturgen Albrecht Puhlmann. Über die Neuinszenierung des Rosenkavalier durch Herbert Wernicke,” Symposion/Gesammelte Vorträge des Salzburger Symposions 1995 (Salzburg: Müller-Speiser, 1996), p.35.
 Herbert Wernicke/Albrecht Puhlmann, „Höchstes Leben im Totenreich Notate zur Aufführung Salzburger Festspiele“, Der Rosenkavalier (Salzburger Festspiele, 1995), pp.18–19.
 “Gespräch mit dem Dramaturgen Albrecht Puhlmann. Über die Neuinszenierung des Rosenkavalier durch Herbert Wernicke,” p.32.
 “Herbert Wernicke oder: Die Geometrie der Oper, Fernsehfilm von Roland Zag und Cornelia Dvořák” (ZDF 1996), Harmonie bleibt Utopie. Herbert Wernicke. Regisseur und Bühnenbildner. 29. Januar bis 26. März 2006, ed. Akademie der Künste (Berlin: Akademie der Künste, 2006), p.83.
 Wernicke, “Gespräch mit dem Dramaturgen Albrecht Puhlmann. Über die Neuinszenierung des Rosenkavalier durch Herbert Wernicke,” pp.18–19.
 Ibid., pp.18–19.
 Der Rosenkavalier (Programmheft), pp.60–61.
 Ibid., pp.34–37.
 Strauss, Der Rosenkavalier. (The Rose–Bearer).
 Wernicke, “Gespräch mit dem Dramaturgen Albrecht Puhlmann. Über die Neuinszenierung des Rosenkavalier durch Herbert Wernicke,” p.32.
 Gerhard Koch, “Herbst im Spiegel-Dickicht,” Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (August 1, 1995).
 Gabriele Luster, “Schamlos wird das süße Mädel vom Papa verhökert,” General-Anzeiger, 1. August 1995.
 Michael Stenger, “Ein Spiel der Erinnerungen,” Wednische Allgemeine (August 1, 1995).
 Wolfgang Schreiber, “Im Spiegelkabinett der Sehnsüchte,” Süddeutsche Zeitung (August 1, 1995).
 Der Rosenkavalier (Programmheft), p.31.
 Premiere: December 23, 1992. Opera Frankfurt. Conductor: Spiros Argiris, Direction: Ruth Berghaus, Set Design: Erich Wonder, Costume Design: Heinz Oswald, Dramaturgy: Nobert Abels, Light: Franz-Peter David.
 Siegfried Schilbli, “Schluss mit der Künstlichkeit!“, Basler Zeitung (August 2, 1995).
 “Symbolismus im Rosenkavalier. Aus Hans H. Hofstätter: Symbolismus und die Kunst der Jahrhundertwende. Köln: M. Du Mont 1965,” Der Rosenkavalier (Programmheft), (Wiesbaden, 1967), p.6–8.
 Jörg-Michael Koerbl, “Eingriff in die Keimbahn der Oper. Erster Aufzug,” Der Rosenkavalier (Programmheft) (Hamburgische Staatsoper, 2002), pp.4–12.
 Markus Thiel, “Opern sind kein Kabarett. Strauss, Wagner und Peter Jonas: Gespräch mit Peter Konwitschny,” Münchner Merkur (May 10, 2002), p.21
 “Der Rosenkavalier – Ein Jahrtausend nach seiner Uraufführung: Eingriff in die Keimbahn der Oper 1–19,” Akademie der Künste (AdK), Berlin, Peter-Konwitschny-Archiv 1937, p.3.
 Barbara Hagemann-Gerhardt, “Keine rosigen Aussichten für 2050,” Stader Tageblatt (May 14, 2002).
 “[…] die Vitalität dieser Figur verbleicht zu einer verlorenen Traurigkeit, die sogar ihren Darsteller zu befallen scheint. Kurt Moll entgleitet seine Partie, er spielt nicht mit ihr, ihre Worte und Töne schlägt er nun nicht mehr mit der grenzenlosen Selbstverständlichkeit seiner großen Jahre an.” Götz Thieme, “Alles ist Rokoko,” Stuttgarter Zeitung (May 14, 2002).
 “Das Unzeitgemäße seiner Rolle brauchte Moll gar nicht erst zu spielen, er verkörpert es in seiner Person. Und seine Gestaltungskraft sucht immer noch seinesgleichen. Wenn der Ochs in ruhigem, dabei fast schwärmerischem Ton am Ende des zweiten Aktes seine Verliebtheit besingt, nicht ahnend, dass ihm bald übel mitgespielt werden soll, dann berührt das in einem solchen Maße, dass einem jedes Bravo im Halse stecken bleibt.” Reinald Hanke, “Spannungsstarke und hochintelligente Premiere,” Cellesche Zeitung (May 14, 2002).
 Jörg-Michael Koerbl, Die Kopie ist das Original. Dritter Aufzug,” Der Rosenkavalier (Programmheft), (Hamburgische Staatsoper 2002), pp.42–45.
 AdK, Berlin, Peter-Konwitschny-Archiv 1934.
 Simon Neubaumer, „Oper bloßgelegt bis auf die Unterwäsche,” Bremer Nachrichten (May 14, 2001): 28.
 Jörg-Michael Koerbl, “Die Kopie ist das Original. Dritter Aufzug”, p.42.
 Detlef Brandenburg, “Wir Juweliere,” Die Deutsche Bühne (2009), pp.28–29.
 Xavier Zuber, “Entfesselter Schöpfungsakt: Zur Dramaturgie des Stuttgarter Rosenkavaliers,” Der Rosenkavalier (Staatsoper Oper, 2009), pp.16–21.
 These paintings are also found in the program of this production. Reviews (Uwe Schweikert, “Bunte Endzeit,” Opernwelt 12 (Berlin: Theaterverlag, 2009), pp.5–7; Georg Rudiger, “Rosenkavalier in Stuttgart Unterm Reifrock der Revolution,” Frankfurter Rundschau, (November 2, 2009), http://www.fr.de/kultur/musik/rosenkavalier-in-stuttgart-unterm-reifrock-der-revolution-a-1068156 (accessed August 13, 2019) mentioned the former two paintings.
 Comelia Eleonore Zerovnik, Frauenbilder bei Hans Makart (Universität Wien Diplomarbeit, 2013), pp.71–73.
 Frieder Reininghaus, “Pan muß sterben. Stefan Herheim inszeniert den ‘Rosenkavalier’ in Stuttgart. Kultur heute,” Deutschlandfunk (November 2, 2009).
 Wolfgang Krebs, “Das Schlußterzett des Rosenkavalier von R. Strauss. Ein Interpretationsversuch,” Festschrift für Winfried Kirsch zum 65. Geburtstag Frankfurter Beiträge Zur Musikwissenschaft 24, ed. Winfried Kirsch/Peter Ackermann (Tutzing: Peter Schneider, 1996), pp.445–455.
 Götz Thieme, “Die Geschlechter unter der Krinoline,” Stuttgarter Zeitung (November 3, 2009), p.31.
 Beth Hart, “Strauss and Hofmannsthal’s Accidental Heroine. The Psychohistorical Meaning of the Marschallin”, The Opera Quarterly 15, no. 3 (1999), pp.415–434.
 Jean Starobinski, Die Zauberinnen, translated by Karl-Ernst Herrmann, (München: Carl Hanser Verlag, 2005, org. Les Enchanteresses. Paris: Éditions du Seuil, 2005), p.17.
 Uwe Schweikert, “Bunte Endzeit,” Opernwelt 12 (2009), pp.5–7.