Opera Scotland

Capriccio 2007Cologne Opera

Read more about the opera Capriccio

The Cologne Opera made two visits to Edinburgh in 1980 and 1981, bringing five excellent productions of works by Mozart, Rossini, Cimarosa and Musgrave, mostly conducted by Sir John Pritchard. Twenty-five years later, expectations were therefore high for performances of what is undoubtedly a masterpiece of sorts, even if some people can find irritating the frivolity of the concept underlying Capriccio.

Markus Stenz is an excellent conductor, and very versatile, though known in Britain mostly for his work on newish music with the London Sinfonietta. Capriccio was an unusual choice for him, and he did well with it, even if the purple patches all sounded somewhat restrained. Of the cast, Gabriele Fontana was making a welcome return to Edinburgh following her Euryanthe in 2004. The English baritone Ashley Holland had not sung much in Scotland (at least not since his time in the Scottish Opera Chorus) and again was welcome. The rest of the cast seemed on paper to be quite promising, but there did not seem to be any outstanding voices, which is likely to cause problems in a major Strauss work.

Unfortunately, things did not quite gel, and the overall effect seemed rather uneasy, which in this, of all operas, was a fundamental problem. The fault lay mainly with the staging, an unsubtle attempt to give the work a significance which it simply doesn't have. We were reminded that Strauss composed Capriccio during the War, when the Nazis were in power, and many French people lived in daily fear of arrest. Monsieur Taupe, the old prompter, was clearly identified as Jewish, complete with yellow star. At the end of the opera, instead of going to her supper, Madeleine appeared to be leaving under arrest. Sporadic eighteenth century dress was mainly applied in the form of a game of charades as the characters attempted to pass the time while straining to forget the conflict in the outside world - fiddling while Rome burns? It is perhaps conceivable that a re-interpretation of the work on these lines might have worked, but it was widely held that this wasn't it and was an updating that raised more questions than it answered.  The Edinburgh audience was unimpressed by the new production, but perhaps a few more performances allowed things to settle later on, once the company was back home.

Performance DatesCapriccio 2007

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Festival Theatre, Edinburgh | Edinburgh

28 Aug, 19.15 30 Aug, 19.15 1 Sep, 19.15

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