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La Roche had slept through the sextet and might with advantage have prolonged his slumber, if only as a hint to so many of his successors. Strauss's indulgence towards him tries the patience, as indeed does the caricature of Italian singers duetting at top voltage, and the bewildered fumbling of Monsieur Taupe, the somnolent dormouse of a prompter. As so often, it is the servants of the household who most accurately sum up the situation. They are far less interested in the opera than in the Count's departure to Paris with Clairon (and presumbably the Nazi), while the Countess seems to be in love, but with whom [listen -- 'Das war ein schöner Lärm', DVD2 chapter 12, 0:00-0:57]?

The Count (Dietrich Henschel) and Countess (Renée Fleming) in their Garnier box. DVD screenshot © 2004 Opéra National de Paris
The Count (Dietrich Henschel) and Countess (Renée Fleming) in their Garnier box. DVD screenshot © 2004 Opéra National de Paris

Strauss contrived one of the loveliest entrances for any of his soprano heroines as she prepares for a solo dinner [listen -- 'Mondscheinmusik', DVD2 chapter 14, 0:21-1:34]. He then imagined the Countess communing quietly with her mirror in the last scene. Robert Carsen has dispensed with the moonlight and devised an original if also perverse substitute for the mirror. He has the Count and Countess seated with poet and musician in the Garnier boxes while the Countess is on stage to sing her final valediction and pose her insoluble operatic and personal question. How this has been achieved is beyond my poor intelligence. The only trouble is that Renée Fleming, who has sung like an angel throughout and looked beautiful enough to cause jealousy in any of the heavenly host, is too much made up for this crucial scene. She looks lovelier in the box, but she sings, of course, on stage [listen -- 'Wählst du den einen, verlierst du den andern!', DVD2 chapter 19, 1:15-3:09]. Meanwhile the Opera Orchestra under Ulf Schirmer knows nothing of such subterfuges and happily concludes what has been a radiant and subtle performance.

Copyright © 1 January 2006 Robert Anderson, London UK


Richard Strauss: Capriccio

DVWW-OPCAPR 1xDVD5+1xDVD9, 16:9 anamorphic, NTSC, all regions DD 5.0,DTS 5.0,PCM-Stereo NEW RELEASE 148' 2004 Opéra National de Paris, François Roussillon et Associés, TDK

Renée Fleming, Countess; Anne Sofie von Otter, Clairon; Rainer Trost, Flamand; Gerald Finley, Olivier; Dietrich Henschel, Count; Franz Hawlata, La Roche; Annamaria Dell'Oste, Italian singer; Barry Banks, Italian singer; Robert Tear, Monsieur Taupe; Petri Lindroos, major-domo; Orchestre de l'Opéra National de Paris; Ulf Schirmer, conductor; Robert Carsen, stage director; Michael Levine, sets; Anthony Powell, costumes; Robert Carson, lighting; Peter van Praet, lighting; Jean-Guillaume Bart, choreography; Ian Burton, dramaturgy; François Roussillon, TV and video director

Richard Strauss (1864-1949): Capriccio (1940, a conversation piece for music in one act, libretto by Clemens Krauss and Richard Strauss, July 2004 recording from Opéra National de Paris/Palais Garnier)


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