Strauss' last opera performed by a great cast in an elegant production
Capriccio I don't consider Strauss' best opera in the way I do Der Rosenkavalier, and I do prefer marginally Elektra, Salome and Ariadne Auf Naxos as well. However, I do consider it one of his more interesting operas. It is basically a conversation piece opera focusing on the relationship between music and words in opera, performed here at just over two hours with no interval, but what gorgeous music that is so typical of Strauss. Lush orchestration and soaring melodies, all here, though I can understand why some may find Strauss'(and Wagner's) style patience-testing.
This is a very good production. I have more of a fondness for the 1993 production with TeKanawa, Troyanos and Keenlyside, but this is still a Capriccio that ticks almost all the right boxes. Visually, although updated to the 20th century, it looks very elegant and gorgeous. Fleming's costume especially in the final scene is not just eye-catching but she wears it well. The High Definition is splendid, and the camera work generally likewise apart from some of the close ups revealing some facial expressions, including Fleming, that could've been more varied.
Sound is fine, though the orchestra occasionally sounded a bit too distant during the Sextet. Musically, it is wonderful. The orchestra play with such great legato and lushness, and Andrew Davis at the conductor's baton is insightful if at times in need of a lighter touch. The dialogue, with the updated setting, does have an anachronistic feel to it on the other hand, but is very well-delivered by the cast.
Principal singing I cannot fault really. Frank Larsen is the one who least impressed me, now he was still good, his Count- Countess Madeleine's brother- was well-characterised and he sings beautifully, however I would have preferred a stronger voice and there are a couple of close-ups that betray a tendency to over-emote. Sarah Connolly is splendid as the actress Clairon, her voice is not as lush as Troyanos' and I also found Troyanos' performance very poignant(apparently it is one of her last performances before succumbing to cancer), but Connolly's mezzo is firm with a lot of dramatic presence, and the whole performance is witty, sharp and charming.
Which brings me to the characters who personify the opera's main subject, the composer Flamand and the poet Olivier. Russell Braun is a dramatically outstanding if slightly lightweight Olivier, but the surprise was Joseph Kaiser's Flamand. Not that he isn't good, but last time I saw him he was Tamino in Branagh's film of The Magic Flute, which is a different medium and does feel different to singing opera on stage. Kaiser copes very well, he is dashing and ardent and makes the most of the lyrical lines of his music.
That is not to dispute Peter Rose's wonderfully self-important LaRoche, the theatre director, or Olga Makarina and Barry Banks, both ideal casting for the Italian opera singer caricatures.
But the star is Renee Fleming as Countess Madeleine, what a superb performance! Some may find she does slide between notes sometimes, and I do think her Marschallin(Der Rosenkavalier) is more nuanced, but I love the creaminess of her singing and the sincerity and warmth of her acting. The final scene, of which she performed to stunning effect at the Met Opening Night Gala in a dress that was even better than this one, is the creme-De-la-creme of Capriccio, and as well as being an arresting presence on stage Fleming's voice simply soars with ease over the orchestra.
All in all, elegant production with wonderful music and a great cast, especially Fleming. 8/10 Bethany Cox
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