Strauss - Capriccio, February 25, 27, March 2, 4, and 6, 2010. Royal Theatre. In German with English surtitles


HEAR CAPRICCIO on Saturday Afternoon at the Opera
JUNE 19, 2010, 1 pm

POV's production of Richard Strauss's Capriccio will be broadcast Saturday, June 19, 2010, at 1 pm on CBC Radio Two's Saturday Afternoon at the Opera.
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POV's Production of Capriccio

Staged February 25, 27, March 2, 4, and 6, 2010
at the Royal Theatre, Victoria, BC

An opera is an absurd thing.

The Countess Madeleine is torn between two lovers – a poet and a musician. The solution to her dilemma is to commission an opera – and she will decide how it ends. But in choosing one lover, she must lose the other. Poetry or music – which will prevail?

All the arts are skewered here – dance, theatre, music, poetry, opera – yet Capriccio is a homage to each. Richard Strauss' last completed opera, Capriccio soars with lyric ecstasy and glistens with sumptuous refinement. It is a wry and entertaining examination of the eternal struggle between man and woman . . . words and music . . . art and life.

Cast and Creative Team


How to solve a love triangle? Commission an opera! . . . who knew?

Capriccio might be seen as the operatic equivalent of My Dinner with André. The slender plot revolves around people eating, drinking, flirting, and debating (Krauss persuaded Strauss to add the subtitle A Conversation Piece for Music, ensuring truth in advertising).

At their chateau outside Paris, the Countess Madeleine and her brother the Count host a group of artists, who rehearse the entertainment for Madeleine's birthday and argue passionately about opera. The poet, Olivier, and the composer, Flamand, are rivals for Madeleine's love. Finally she tells them to collaborate on an opera – and she will decide how it ends. But it's not that simple! This is a woman who wants to have her cake and eat it!

Infused with humour and wit, Capriccio is both an entertaining love triangle and a luscious satire on the arts. It is sophisticated (Strauss called it a bonbon for the connoisseur), and it repays with richness and delight the effort of getting to know it.

Anyone can luxuriate in the gorgeous orchestration and elegant ambience. And even as it probes the nature of love and the meaning of art, Capriccio is wickedly funny. Here are wonderful comic characters: a tipsy Italian soprano; a tenor obsessed with his fees; a Count for whom art is but the way into an actress's bed; a poet who is infuriated when the composer ruins his verse by setting it to music; a theatre director who insists the public wants just pretty girls, eye-filling sets, and grandiose special effects; and a prompter, who, by the simple act of falling asleep on the job, can sabotage a play and bring the whole edifice of art tumbling down:

When I sleep I become a sensation. The actors cannot go on speaking, the audience wakes up!

The knowledgeable musician will find Capriccio to be a compendium of operatic styles and a guide to opera history. It brims with musical quotations from Couperin, Gluck, Rameau, Verdi, Wagner – and Strauss, who recycles some of his old tunes and slips a number of in-jokes into the fascinating brew.



Richard Strauss

  • Richard Strauss Online: a site presented by Richard and Christian Strauss, grandsons of the composer, with biographical information and discussion of his works and family life.
  • Biography of Strauss and discussion of some of his works.
  • Bad Boy, an article about Richard Strauss that appeared in Time Magazine July 25, 1938, just before the premiere of his opera Friedenstag.

Clemens Krauss

  • Biography of the co-librettist of Capriccio, who also conducted the premiere.

Hans Swarowsky

  • Biography of the conductor Hans Swarowsky, who found and translated the sonnet by Pierre Ronsard that forms the core of Capriccio. A student of both Strauss and Krauss, Swarowsky became a conductor and a noted teacher, counting among his own students Claudio Abbado, Zubin Mehta, Bruno Weil, and Pacific Opera Victoria's own Timothy Vernon, who is conducting this production of Capriccio.

The Real Clairon

Pierre de Ronsard

For Fun

  • The Awful German Language a humourous essay by Mark Twain about his efforts to learn German. Even as he makes fun of the language and his own attempts to speak German, Twain recognizes the poetry of the language: There are German songs which can make a stranger to the language cry. That shows that the SOUND of the words is correct – it interprets the meanings with truth and with exactness; and so the ear is informed, and through the ear, the heart.

Maureen Woodall

Explore Capriccio