05 Oct 2008

STRAUSS: Capriccio -- Vienna 2008

Capriccio: Konversationsstück für Musik in one act.

Music composed by Richard Strauss. Libretto by the composer and Clemens Krauss.

First Performance: 28 October 1942, Staatsoper, Munich.

Principal Roles:
Countess Soprano
Count Baritone
Flamand, a musician Tenor
Olivier, a poet Baritone
La Roche, director of a theatre Bass
Clairon, an actress Contralto
M. Taupe Tenor
Italian Singer Soprano
Italian Tenor Tenor
Major-Domo Bass

Setting: A drawing-room in the Countess's chateau near Paris; May 1777


In the Countess Madeleine's château, the composer Flamand and the poet Olivier listen to a rehearsal of Flamand's newly written sextet. They are both in love with the Countess, and argue the relative merits of music and words. The theatre director La Roche, waking up from a nap, explains that without impresarios their efforts are but lifeless paper. They leave to rehearse Olivier's new play, written for the Countess's birthday the following day. The Count enters, teasing the Countess that she is identifying Flamand with her love of music, while she retaliates that his love of words mirrors his admiration for the actress Clairon. While the Count enjoys fleeting encounters, the Countess desires long-lasting love but cannot choose between Flamand and Olivier. Clairon arrives and she and the Count read the latest scene, culminating in a love sonnet, before leaving for the rehearsal in the theatre. Olivier declares to the Countess that the sonnet is intended for her but, to his horror, Flamand sets it to music and sings it. Olivier is summoned to make cuts to his play. Flamand declares his love and the Countess asks him to meet her in the library the following morning when her choice will be revealed. Refreshments are served while the guests are entertained by dancers and singers. La Roche describes his planned birthday entertainment, the allegorical Birth of Pallas Athene followed by the spectacular Fall of Carthage. He is mocked, but defends his faith in the theatre, challenging Flamand and Olivier to create masterpieces that speak to humanity's heart and soul. The Countess commissions them to collaborate on an opera, and the Count suggests the theme should be the events of that afternoon. The Count and Clairon leave for Paris with the theatre company. With moonlight streaming in through the windows, the Countess learns that Olivier as well as Flamand will meet her in the library to learn how the opera is to end. Torn between them, she sings the sonnet that represents their inseparability. She consults her image in the mirror to decide the opera's ending. The major-domo provides the answer: 'Dinner is served'.

[Synopsis Source: Boosey & Hawkes]

Click here for the complete libretto.