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Capriccio is the final opera by Germanmarker composer Richard Strauss, subtitled "A Conversation Piece for Music". The opera received its premiere performance at the Nationaltheater Münchenmarker on October 28, 1942. Clemens Krauss and Strauss himself wrote the German libretto. However, the genesis of the libretto came from Stefan Zweig in the 1930's, and Joseph Gregor further developed the idea several years later. Strauss then took on the libretto, but finally recruited Krauss as his collaborator on the opera. Most of the final libretto is by Krauss.


Premiere, October 28, 1942
(Conductor: Clemens Krauss)

The Countess soprano Viorica Ursuleac

Clairon, an actress contralto Hildegard Ranczak

Flamand, a musician tenor Horst Taubmann

Olivier, a poet baritone Hans Hotter

The Count, the Countess' brother baritone Walter Höfermeyer

La Roche, director of a theatre bass Georg Hann

Monsieur Taupe tenor Karl Seydel

Italian singers soprano, tenor Irma Beilke, Franz Klarwein

The Major-Domo bass Georg Wieter

Eight servants four tenors, four basses

Three musicians violin, cello, cembalo


The theme of the opera can be summarized as "Which is more important: words or music?" This question is dramatized in the story of a Countess torn between two suitors: Olivier, a poet, and Flamand, a composer.

At the château of the Countess Madeleine, a rehearsal of Flamand's newly composed sextet is in progress. Olivier and Flamand debate the relative merits of music and words. The theatre director La Roche wakes from his naps, and tells them both that impresarios are necessary to bring their work to life. Olivier has written a new play for the Countess' birthday the next day, and they proceed to a rehearsal.

The Countess and her brother, the Count, have a discussion about their respective suitors. He teases his sister that her love of music parallels Flamand's attention to her. In turn, she tells her brother that his love of words is in keeping with his attraction to the actress Clairon. The Count is inclined towards brief affairs, but the Countess wants long-lasting love. She cannot decide between Flamand and Olivier. Clairon arrives, and she and the Count read a scene from Olivier's play, which culminates in a love sonnet. They leave for the rehearsal in the theatre.

Olivier tells the Countess that he means the sonnet for her. However, Flamand has set the sonnet to music and sings it, which appalls Olivier. Olivier is asked to make cuts to his play. Flamand declares his love for the Countess. She asks him to meet her in the library the next morning, when she will indicate her choice. Refreshments are served as dancers and singers entertain the guests. La Roche describes his two-part birthday entertainment, the "Birth of Pallas Athene", followed by the "Fall of Carthage". The guests mock him, but La Roche defends his faith in the theatre. After he challenges Flamand and Olivier to create new masterworks, the Countess commissions them to collaborate on an opera. The Count proposes the theme of the events of that afternoon.

The Count and Clairon depart for Paris, with the theatre company. In the final scene, as moonlight shines, the Countess learns that both Olivier and Flamand will meet her in the library to learn the ending of the opera. Still undecided, she sings of the inseparability of words and music, and consults her image in the mirror for a decision. The major-domo announces that "Dinner is served", as the opera ends.


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