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Richard Strauss: Capriccio [Blu-ray]

20 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

The central issue in Capriccio, happily, can never be resolved. The superiority of music over poetry, or vice versa, must always be a matter of personal preference. The Countess, not wishing to sacrifice one by choosing the other, proposes opera as a way to possess both. But this compromise, far from being a solution, sharpens a mere topic of conversation into a vexed confrontation for in opera the conflict of priorities between words and music is enacted with every performance. Those of us who work in opera are inevitably caught up in the battle.
Capriccio is a conversation piece, concerned with ideas. Given that the issues embodied in these ideas are as alive today as they ever were, and that by performing the opera at all we are contributing to the argument, I wanted to find a way of doing it that would stress how contemporary it is. In a piece that is of necessity rather static, the eighteenth-century convention of paniered skirts and powdered wigs could easily lend to the proceedings an air of the museum. So often with Capriccio, one gets the impression of a group of silk and satin dilettantes idling their way affectedly through a vacuous afternoon, whereas the essence of the situation is a number of professional artists discussing their work with their patrons.
However, unlike the ideas, the social circumstances embodied in Capriccio are not of the present. Where now do we find an elite wealthy and cultivated enough to patronise artists as extravagantly as the Countess and her brother do? The task was thus to find a time that would be true to the dramatic content of the opera.
Paris in the decade after World War I had all that we needed. Patronesses like the Princesse de Polignac commissioned works from Stravinsky, Cocteau, the composers of Les Six, and others for private consumption. All of them were concerned with problems of form, many with finding new ways of combining words and music for the theatre. Diaghilev and Reinhardt bestrode the theatrical scene.
Most of all, the relaxation of social behaviour found in the post-war period, with its ingenious emphasis on comfort that is not yet at the expense of elegance, seems to look back to the eighteenth century and forward to our own. It releases to the performer a rich vocabulary of gesture, posture, and moment-to-moment activity that is more accessible to both audience and actors, being much closer to their own, and that, therefore, can only assist in pointing the relevance of the conversation to us as we watch and listen.
Those who find problematic the references within our text to eighteenth-century composers and writers should reflect that every age has its reformers and traditionalists. Names change but issues remain. Strauss, by claiming in his preface to Capriccio that he himself was the direct heir of Gluck s reforms, cleared the way for an exposition in words and music of his own compositional concerns. (As if to leave us in no doubt at all of this musical self-portrait, he even quotes frequently from his own work.) In short, everything Strauss represents was as true during his working life as it was in Gluck s most notably in the wholly twentieth-century figure of the theatre director La Roche.
La Roche is anxious to people the stage with creatures of flesh and blood , people like ourselves with whom we can identify . This interpretation of Capriccio is an attempt to please him.
John Cox
10/2011

Production: John Cox Set Designer: Mauro Pagano
Costume Designer and Interior Décor: Robert Perdziola
Lighting Designer: Duane Schuler Choreographer: Val Caniparoli
Stage Director: Peter McClintock

Director: Gary Halvorson Host: Joyce DiDonato
Musical Preparation: Dennis Giauque, Vlad Iftinca, Steven Gathman, Jonathan Kelly, Patrick Furrer
Assistant Stage Director: Gregory Anthony Fortner Stage Band Conductor: Jeffrey Goldberg

Special Features

None.

Product Details

  • Actors: Renée Fleming, Andrew Davis, Sarah Connolly, Josephh Kaiser, Russell Braun
  • Directors: John Cox, Gary Halvorson
  • Writers: Richard Strauss, Clemens Krauss
  • Producers: The Metropolitan Opera, Peter Gelb
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Blu-ray, Classical, Color, Widescreen, DTS Surround Sound
  • Language: German (DTS-HD High Res Audio), German (PCM Stereo), English (PCM Stereo)
  • Subtitles: German, English, French, Spanish, Chinese
  • Region: Region A/1 (Read more about DVD/Blu-ray formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: Decca
  • DVD Release Date: December 20, 2011
  • Run Time: 149 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B005R07ZP6
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #118,885 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

31 of 36 people found the following review helpful By Paul Van de Water on November 10, 2011
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
Capriccio represents the culmination of Strauss's operatic career, just as Metamorphosen and the Four Last Songs are the capstones of his orchestral and vocal writing. Capriccio was premiered in 1942 in Munich, whose beloved opera house was destroyed by Allied bombing the following year. The Nazi regime, too, soon fell, but Strauss's opera--focusing on eternal questions of love and art--has become increasingly popular and is widely considered one of his greatest works.

In the notes for this recording, George Hall writes, "Despite the extreme circumstances surrounding its creation--catastrophic for the wider world, imbued with fear and shame for Strauss himself, whose chief concern during these years was to protect his beloved Jewish daughter-in-law and grandsons--Capriccio is far more than the piece of elegant escapism Strauss's detractors have claimed it to be." In Capriccio, he continues, Strauss "reasserted his commitment to the values of art as a civilised and civilising pursuit at one of the periods when those values were most under threat."

This production from the Metropolitan Opera could not be bettered. Although the time is moved from the 18th to the early 20th century, the change of eras is hardly noticeable. The setting (the interior of the Countess's chateau) and costumes are beautifully detailed and realistic. Andrew Davis leads the musical forces in a superlative performance--from the ravishing opening sextet to the Countess's great closing monologue. All of the singers are excellent, but Renee Fleming is the unquestioned star, who is on stage almost throughout and holds the opera together. As Times reviewer Anthony Tommasini says, Fleming "grab[s] every chance to let her voice bloom." In the final monologue her voice is "plush and alluring, her phrasing noble."

At the end of Capriccio, the questions the opera poses remain unresolved. Words or music? Poet or composer? That is as it should be.
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19 of 23 people found the following review helpful By D. R. M. on November 2, 2011
Format: DVD
The DVD isn't out yet, but I just wanted to put in a word about how lovely and enrapturing this performance is. I saw the live broadcast in a Minneapolis theater and I was simply blown away by every aspect of it. Renee Fleming will capture your heart with her gorgeous singing and her portrayal of a woman who has to choose between two lovers. (The one slight false note, IMO, is her contemporary hair styling; doesn't look right for the period. But I can live with that.) The rivals for her heart are finely drawn and sung--the musician passionate and headlong; the poet buttoned-up and nervous, but desperate for the Countess's love. The supporting singers are right on target--characterful and funny. The Met sets and costumes are excellent. And Andrew Davis does a solid job in the pit. This was Strauss's last opera--and what a tuneful, touching human story to tell right at the end of his incredible career.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Ultrarunner on January 17, 2012
Format: Blu-ray Verified Purchase
Strauss called the opera Capriccio a conversation piece for music in one act. A discussion on what is more important in opera,the words or the music. The conclusion is that both are required when united into a single entity. Although Krauss is credited with the libretto in the printed score,much of it was written by Richard Strauss. He pleased himself and ended up pleasing his audiences.This last and 15th opera was premiered in 1942,National theatre,Munich. Strauss stayed behind in Nazi Germany, because he said he wanted to protect his Jewish daughter in law and two grand children.Probably he thought that art was above ordinary affairs, which it is not,for a artist should be in tune with their times, and stand up against injustice as conductor Busch and co did.

This opera is set in a Salon in a Paris Chateau in 1775, but director John Cox states that on stage it would add the air of a museum,diletantes idling their way through an afternoon,instead of professionals discussing their art with their patron. He updated Capriccio to Paris in the decade after World war 1.Patronesses like the Princess de Polnagac commissioned works from Stravinsky, Cocteau etc.Many were concerned with finding new ways of combining words and music for avantguarde directors.Every era has its traditionalists and reformers, even though in this opera references are made to composers of the past.

The young widowed Countess Madeleine is celebrating her birthday. A young musician Flamand has written the music and Olivier a sonnet. Flamand and Olivier are also seeking the hand of the countess.While her brother the Count who does not like opera and is an amateur actor,is seeking the hand of Clarion.
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14 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Keris Nine TOP 1000 REVIEWER on November 9, 2011
Format: Blu-ray
The subject of Strauss' final opera might appear slight, but in reality it's a brilliant summation of issues that the composer explored throughout his career. The opera itself consists of little more than a drawing room conversation between rich artists and intellectuals in an elegant Parisian chateau who talk endlessly about one subject; the eternal question of which is more important in opera, the words or the music. This in turn leads to the characters deciding to write an opera about their conversation, and if that sounds like a fairly fruitless exercise on the part of Strauss, writing an opera that is about writing an opera about writing an opera, this self-reflexivity should come as no surprise to anyone who is familiar with Der Rosenkavalier or Ariadne auf Naxos. Capriccio similarly is a masterfully constructed opera - you would expect nothing less from Richard Strauss - that frustratingly seems a little more intellectualised than truly emotional or from the heart. What redeems those earlier works however are the little moments of heartfelt truths that are reached and expressed, principally though the music itself, but Capriccio seems to recognise that there are other less easily defined aspects to art and music that keep it vital and alive.

Appropriately, while there's no doubt that the sublime Renée Fleming singing Strauss as the Countess is the main attraction here, Capriccio is an ensemble piece, since each of the parties involved in the discussion are practically personifications of Music, Poetry and Drama, and it's the ensemble that is important in a work of opera. The role of the Countess may not seem to be as important as those other elements in the scheme of the composing of an opera but she has perhaps the most vital role of all.
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