Music by Richard Strauss
Libretto by Clemens Krauss and the composer
Conductor: Sir Andrew Davis
Revival Director: Peter McClintock
At the Lyric Opera of Chicago
Romance abounds in Richard Strauss’s ode to opera
Richard Strauss’s 1942 opera, Capriccio, opened in Munich just as the Allies began bombing the city in World Wat II. It was Strauss’s final opera, and his love letter to opera. It was decidedly non-political, as Strauss was careful not to offend his Nazi benefactors. Capriccio is a smart, lush, and romantic ode to stage performances, opera, that inherently make music dominate over words.
Set in 1920’s near Paris, the drawing room comic opera, Capriccio, finds friends of the Countess Madeleine (the fabulous soprano Renee Fleming) wanting to celebrate her birthday with words and music. Flamand (tenor William Burden), a composer tries to impress the Countess with his music; and Olivier (baritone Audun Iversen) uses his poetry (words) to capture the adoration of the Countess. La Roche (bass Peter Rose), a theater producer, believes that the art of theater overshadows both music and words-that performances dominant here. Add the countess’s brother, the Count (baritone Bo Skovhus), who loves words yet he covets the actress Clarion (mezzo-soprno Anne Sofie Von Otter).
The battle between music with Flanand and words from Olivier with strong emphasis on developing a theatrical work by La Roche produces lively arias and fine comic situations that emerge with the lush romantic music that allows a stirring performance by the principals. Renee Fleming show why she is a super-star as she acts and sings wonderfully, especially in the last scenes as she struggles with choosing between Flanand and Olivier
Capriccio starts off slowly, but don’t quit on this opera, for it evolves into a cleverly captivating light spook of the creative process and the eccentricities of artists. Besides the yoeman work by Peter Rose as the passionate impresario, Juan Jose De Leon, as the Italian Tenor and Emily Birsan as the Italian Soprano, we enjoy the comic ballet work from Jennifer Goodman and Randy Herrera.
But, ultimately, Capriccio which was referred to by Strauss as “conversation piece” rather than a serious drama, is an opera within an opera, and an appreciation of the wonders of music over words (lyrics) that fuels opera. Capriccio is an intimate opera that Strauss never intended to be seen in a 3,500 seat house such as the Lyric Opera of Chicago. But, I believe it holds up well as the powerhouse cast, lead by Renee Fleming, projected effectively to deliver all the comedy and the lush romance contained. This is an amazingly charming, even sweet work that effectively delivers the passion of the creative artists as they struggle to get their art seen and heard. Watching this opera give me new appreciation of the craft of theater, of music, of words- that together-emerge as grand opera.
Talk Theatre in Chicago Podcast
Date Reviewed: October 9, 2014
For more info checkout the Capriccio page at theatrinchicago.com
At the Lyric Opera of Chicago in the Civic Opera House, 20 N. Wacker Drive; $34-$244, $20-$40 children; 312-827-5600, lyricopera.org, running time is 2 hours, 50 minutes through October 28, 2014