Feb 13, 2012

Renee Fleming explains things to one of her suitors in a scene from Capriccio.

This was Richard Strauss’s last opera, and was composed towards the end of WW II. Strauss, like the conductor Furtwangler, stayed in Germany during the war. Strauss, at least according to his Wikipedia entry, wanted to protect his Jewish daughter-in-law and his grandchildren. Rather than writing a wartime piece though he turned to Paris of 1775, and wrote an elegant little piece on aesthetics. This production, as you can see from the picture above and from the DVD cover, has updated the setting, and moved it to the 1920s. (Fleming’s hairstyle is off for the period, but it looks far better than the stringy style with so many foolish young starlets nowadays.)

Fleming’s character, Madeleine, is pursued by a poet and a musician. This prompts a debate over which is more important words or music. La Roche, an impresario, and someone who is not a suitor, brings out the importance of his role in uniting the two arts.

This does not sound very promising, and given that it comes from Germany, which does not have a reputation, particularly during this era, for lightheartedness, it doesn’t seem promising, but it is a lot of fun.

This performance got some negative reviews on Amazon, although the overwhelming response was positive. I was entranced by it, and loved Strauss’s lush, romantic score.