R Strauss: Capriccio (Blu-ray)
Camilla Nylund, Christoph Pohl, Daniel Behle, Nikolay Borchev, Georg Zeppenfeld; Sachsische Staatskapelle Dresden/Christian Thielemann (Arthaus Musik/Blu-ray)
Camilla Nylund, Christoph Pohl, Daniel Behle, Nikolay Borchev, Georg Zeppenfeld; Sachsische Staatskapelle Dresden/Christian Thielemann; dir. Jens Daniel-Herzog (Dresden, 2022)
Arthaus Musik 109459 145 mins
Here’s a case where a CD would work better than a Blu-ray. Not that director Jens-Daniel Herzog’s take on Richard Strauss’s conversation-piece swansong is especially outlandish; it’s just not terribly good. The start, though musically elegant with Thielemann relaxedly half-conducting his excellent Dresden Staatskapelle string sextet, is unpromising. You know that the ineffective ageing make-up and wigs on composer Flamand, poet Olivier and impresario La Roche won’t last long as they peer in on the old countess (in a care home?) watching her former glory on the television. But couldn’t Nikolay Bortchev’s Olivier have been stopped from conducting himself, and does Georg Zeppenfeld as the theatre director have to look at the conductor so often? Daniel Behle, though, is simply perfect both vocally and dramatically.
The fast-flowing debates need less clutter to make their mark; even once we’ve landed in the 1940s, the references back to the 18th century are more often clumsy than playful. Camilla Nylund’s opulent soprano as a handsome Countess Madeleine is best when she can billow, and the final scene rises to something remarkable; here, at least, the idea of ageing over the relatively trivial question of which suitor to choose allows her a peculiar intensity as she meets her later self. Thielemann predicatably makes everything transparent, playful, gorgeous; musically it’s a triumph. But maybe just listen with a libretto to hand.