Not to steal the show from my long time friend and colleague Ron Moore, but I thought I would take just a moment to reflect on my earliest experiences with Richard Strauss' Der Rosenkavalier. It must have been either 1968 or '9; I was just a greenhorn music student, a horn player, at the University of Texas at Austin. Walter Ducloux had just come in to take over the UT Opera. The truth is, he didn't just assume the role. He challenged the UT Opera with a production of Strauss' Der Rosenkavalier.
I had not yet been around long enough to break into the UT Orchestra. There were more experienced and skilled players already in that deep end of the pool. However, I got my small opportunity with an offstage part in the final act. A small orchestra plays Baron Ochs' waltz as background to one of his romantic "interludes." The rehearsals were eye-opening for me. I saw how hard the pit orchestra had to work and also how demanding Maestro Ducloux was. But I also got to see an opera being made, closeup.
After each rehearsal and performance, at UT's venerable Hogg Auditorium, I would play my part, then quickly pack my horn, rush out the back door, then slip back into the auditorium to find a seat in the back row. From here I watched, awestruck by the performance, but even more profoundly moved by the emotional and artistic power of the opera. The final trio would unfold, and every night my tears would begin to flow. I was helpless in the grasp of the art, yet more than willing to surrender. I became of that moment, heart palpitating, trembling. The perfection of those final moments still causes my heart to sing whenever I hear, or see, that final scene. Yes, I still cry, not now and then, but every time I listen to Rosenkavalier. Listen, really listen, and you will too.
James Baker - Classical Music Host, KPAC-San Antonio