Let me first confess that, while I find Richard Strauss a major composer – a creator of many fine scores – I have never been enthralled by a goodly number of his large works, most of his operas included. Before I anger too many readers, I'll concede that my views on his music are likely the deficiency of something in my personal tastes, not the result of some flaw in his artistic skills. That said, Capriccio is one of his less compelling operas. Still, it offers much fine music, even if it doesn't answer the central issue in its story – which is more essential to opera, the words or music?
This production is as fine a one as you're likely to encounter on DVD. It was first presented in June, 2004, at the Paris Opera, and this recording of it was made the following month. The sets by Michael Levine and costumes by Anthony Powell are lavish and colorful, imaginative and brilliantly atmospheric. Robert Carsen directed the production and he must be afforded high praise for so vividly bringing the operatic stage in all its glories to your screen and speakers.
Of course, we can't forget about crediting the singers here. Is there anyone better today in the role of the Countess than Renée Fleming? Gerald Finley is fine as Olivier, and Dietrich Henschel and Rainer Trost as the Count and Flamand, respectively, turn in excellent work. Anne Sophie von Otter, as always, is exquisite as Clairon. Quite simply, the cast is brilliant from top to bottom.
Ulf Schirmer leads the Paris Opera Orchestra with an insightful hand and the sound is excellent. For Straussians – even for lukewarm admirers of his art like me – this is a must.
Copyright © 2006, Robert Cummings