Strauss: Capriccio / Fleming, von Otter, Trost et al. / Paris, 2004 (3)

(Previous section here.)

While I was writing about this, I stopped to consider whether I should label it as regietheater. I didn’t in the end, because it’s not, but the reason I wondered about it is that it has all the earmarks — the at times bare stage, for example, or the constant references to the fact that what is being performed is a performance.

Strauss was invested enough in making this a ‘conversation piece’ and leaving the conversation as open-ended as possible that I’m not sure you could actually go Regie on this. People often assume regietheater is mostly about adding lots of sex and weird stage direction and people in body-stockings eating bugs and all that, but of course it isn’t. It can be, but it’s not necessarily that, or not only that. As I see it, it’s about using what you can do with a stage to bring out, often in a quite abstract way, aspects of the work which are not immediately obvious in a conventional production.

I mean, for a Regie interpretation to really work there has to be a strong emotional core to the work in the first place, with a fairly well defined direction to it. This doesn’t mean an absence of nuance or ambiguity, of course – quite the opposite. It just means that the work has to have a strong enough independent identity, or emotional core, or whatever, that it can both provoke the desire to tweak it and withstand the tweaking.

Capriccio is not without emotion and as discussed yesterday it can resonate with its audience in a variety of ways. But precisely because Strauss leaves it so open ended, and everyone in the opera spends so much time discussing what it is about, I think it would be difficult to produce a regie interpretation of it that was usefully different from what is offered in a production like this. The best Regie productions I have seen are of works that are more open-ended than they seem; Capriccio in some ways seems more open-ended than it is.

The video below is not really connected to what I just said – it’s just sort of fun, and there’s dancing. Also, listening to Strauss write Straussian operatic dialogue over a background of eighteenth-century-type chamber music is neat. (I also liked the bit earlier in the opera where the Countess quotes/sings a few bars of “fra le pupille” from Les Indes Galantes when they are talking about Rameau.)