Should a music critic be honest about his or her failings and blind spots, or should he attempt to teach his audience to have the “correct” view, pretending to hold a truth that he himself does not feel?
“The Knight of the Rose,” or The Rose Cavalier, as the Metropolitan Opera program so drolly translates it, was the operatic fare of the last evening. The audience adored it and the singers seemed to be having a good time. The performance all through was remarkably even and smooth. I am sure it is a personal shortcoming that I did not find myself taking much interest in the affair.
If I may be permitted the confession, I have never been able to keep my mind on Der Rosenkavalier. I can take a cat nap here and there without seeming to miss anything, because when I wake up the music is always doing exactly what it was when I dropped off. It is full of waltzes that all sound alike and that have nothing to do with the play, which is about mid-eighteenth-century Vienna. It is full of broken-up vocal lines that have no musical necessity, because the orchestra always has the tune anyway, and that always have to be sung loud because the orchestration is thick and pushing, owing to Strauss’s constant overwriting for the horns. I think it is really an acting opera, because the vocal line is not very interesting and the orchestral writing, though elaborate, is to my ear wholly inconsequential. I make exception vocally for the final trio, which is as pretty as can be, and instrumentally for the well-known passage where the celesta comments in another key.
— Virgil Thomson, The New York Herald Tribune, March 14, 1942