Opera Scotland

Capriccio

Music
Richard Strauss (born Munich, 11 June 1864; died Garmisch, 8 September 1949)

Text
Clemens Krauss and the Composer.

Source
Original.

Premières
First performance: Munich (Nationaltheater), 28 October 1942.
First UK performance: London (Royal Opera House), 22 September 1953.
First performance in Scotland: Glasgow (Theatre Royal), 9 January 1985.
Scottish Opera première: As above.

Background
Capriccio is the result of collaboration between the elderly composer and a friend of long standing who was also one of the best conductors of his music, and whose wife, the soprano Viorica Ursuleac, created the leading role. The last opera composed by Strauss, Capriccio is sometimes described as a conversation piece on the subject of the art of opera itself. It can perhaps be criticised as a rarefied debate of interest only to existing enthusiasts. However it may also be enjoyed simply as the illustration of a pleasant social event. The piece is composed for performance right through, though sometimes an interval is inserted.

Main Characters
Flamand, a composer (tenor)
Olivier, a poet and playwright (baritone)
La Roche, a theatre director (bass)
The Countess Madeleine (soprano)
The Count, her brother (baritone)
Clairon, an actress (mezzo-soprano)
An Italian tenor (tenor)
An Italian soprano (soprano)
Two dancers (silent)
Monsieur Taupe, a prompter (tenor)
The major-domo (spoken)

Plot Summary
The setting is a country house near Paris in the 1770s, where a number of people have gathered to celebrate the birthday of Madeleine, a wealthy young widow. A musician and writer are commissioned to produce an entertainment for the evening, but they are both in love with her, so their rivalry develops into a competition between the relative importance of words and music. The debate is assisted by a theatre director who insists that the taste of the public must be catered for. The Countess and her brother think that admiration for the artist can influence love of the art, and the Count is certainly very taken with the actress Clairon, who arrives to take part in Olivier’s play. La Roche also introduces two singers and two dancers who will take part in the entertainment. Olivier recites his sonnet to the Countess, clearly a declaration of love, and Flamand sets the piece to music, also revealing his love for Madeleine. No one thinks much of the suggestions La Roche makes for the entertainment, and Madeleine proposes that collaboration is necessary. All leave for Paris except the Countess, (the Count escorting Clairon). Flamand and Olivier will return the next morning to hear Madeleine’s verdict. At the end, the Countess is left alone as the sun sets before dinner, pondering the outcome, and apparently not coming to a conclusion, though the wonderful orchestra seems to clarify matters.

The Cast

Clairon
 an actress
Count
 Madeleine's brother
Countess Madeleine
 
Dancer 1
 
Dancer 2
 
Eighth Servant
 
Fifth Servant
 
First Servant
 
Flamand
 a composer
Fourth Servant
 
Italian soprano
 
Italian tenor
 
La Roche
 a theatre director
Major-domo
 
Monsieur Taupe
 a prompter
Olivier
 a poet and playwright
Second Dancer
 
Second Servant
 
Seventh Servant
 
Sixth Servant
 
Third Servant
 

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