Der Rosenkavalier is Richard Strauss’ fifth completed opera, and also his first operatic comedy. In it, Strauss left behind the expressionist tonal language of his two previous operas, Elektra and Salome, writing instead a sumptuous score with lush strings and swoon-worthy melodies, a style in which he would continue for the rest of his career.

This 2010 production is a revival of director Nathaniel Merrill and designer Robert O’Hearn’s 1969 staging. It is thoroughly traditional – the dresses are big, and the sets are grand – and it is a great spectacle, especially in the second act. Perhaps in spite of the stuffiness of the sets and costumes, the direction very much emphasises the human aspects of the characters. The singers all show themselves as good actors, giving committed performances, and their relationships are all wonderfully characterised. Susan Graham’s acting shines especially, playing the 17-year-old boy Octavian most convincingly. She also proves herself quite the comedian when she is in disguise as the maid Mariandel, with scene-stealing antics in the first act.

The cast is experienced in their roles, all having sung them many times before; indeed, the Marschallin is often named as Renée Fleming’s signature role, and perhaps the same can be said about Ms Graham’s Octavian. Even though they are experienced in their roles, their interpretations never feel stale.

Renée Fleming is also often called one of the great Strauss interpreters of her generation, and this performance at least partly shows why. Her silvery voice spins seemingly endless lines, and her attention to the text is wonderful. She does take a little while to get really going, but she truly shines in the Act I monologues, even though she is at times maybe a little over-indulgent. Kristinn Sigmundsson’s Baron Ochs is deliciously boorish and delivers his lines with very good diction. In addition to her most convincing acting, Susan Graham also sings beautifully, especially in the scenes with Sophie. Christine Schäfer’s Sophie is ever the innocent little girl falling in love for the first time, and her and Ms Graham’s voices blend exquisitely, especially in their final duet. The final trio is as breathtaking as ever.

The Met orchestra is conducted by Edo de Waart. He brings out the lushness of Strauss’ score, but it almost feels like he holds back a little too much at times. He is also a thoughtful accompanist and supports the singers well, never overpowering them, but he can also marshal orchestral forces when needed. The music is suitably rapturous, and the winds shine especially in the overture. The ever-important horn solos are played wonderfully throughout.

For all its grandness and opulence, this production never loses Strauss’ distinctly human touch. This is an intimate Rosenkavalier with lovingly drawn characters, great singing and wonderful orchestral playing.