Saturday, April 23, 2011
Capriccio in HD
Monsieur Taupe..........Bernard Fitch
Count...................Morten Frank Larsen
La Roche................Peter Rose
Major Domo..............Michael Devlin
It is interesting to me that I have seen Strauss' Capriccio three times, and all have been in this set by Mauro Pagano. It's been decorated and painted differently, but always there are large doors going out to the garden stage right, and a harp ends up in the center of the stage. The other times were in the 90's with Kiri Te Kanawa. First Hanna Schwarz played Clarion, and all wore astounding black and white Versace. Then it was Tatiana Troyanos as Clarion in her last performance on any stage, but with period costumes. How could this set be improved upon?
Hanna Schwarz was the best Clarion because of her impeccable Bühnedeutsch, which means stage German. You believed completely that she was a professional stage actress when she spoke her German lines. Few if any foreigners achieve this. This time it was Sarah Connolly, and she was good, though a bit arrogant.
In the same performance as Hanna Schwarz Reri Grist as the Italian soprano ate an entire cake.
Kiri's countess was simply too fine for any mere mortal. Renée Fleming brings her to earth. She loves being vied for by two different men. Perhaps she loves it far more than she loves the men themselves. She alternately touches her cheeks as if to ask which cheek is the more beautiful. She pretends to play the harp very convincingly. For my money Renée is a great actress and brought the ending to a magnificent climax.
What we are seeing is real life transformed into an opera. Men, as is usual for them, are worrying over how to appropriately form themselves into a hierarchy. Strauss and his theater friends have gathered for a party, and each claims that he is the most important all the way down to the prompter. All agree to praise Gluck and trash the Italians.
I give an advantage to Music, and not just because of my personal preference. Music does not feel humbled by the process of combining his art with words, but Words wishes to have nothing at all to do with Music. Generosity must surely lead to superiority, at least as husband material. Joseph Kaiser as the composer Flamand is also better looking and a better singer than his rival Olivier. The woman has to go to the tenor, though the opera does not tell us.
So Strauss and his friends argue over the issue until, just as in the opera, one suggests what a fine opera this would make. But does it? The Grafin's soliloquy rises to the level of the greatest Strauss, but the rest is not entirely pleasing. Just as it says in the dialog, the arias all sound too much like recitative.
I'm glad I went for Renée.