B. Farconi | Rockville, MD | 11/20/2005
(3 out of 5 stars)
"I liked the production of the opera, the sets within sets and the mirrors, the very final scene when the sets were lifted up was very ingenious, but the singing was not as uniformly good. Finley and von Otter very outstanding, and Hawlata is always a pleasure to hear, but the delivery of the main star was not the best. Fleming is acclaimed for her Strauss but I was surprised at the liberties she takes with the music line, to the point where I found it irritating. This is a second opera on film after Manon where I found her delivery spoiled the enjoyment of the opera for me. There is another Capriccio DVD available with Te Kanawa and Troyanos which is much better production overall, this one should be noted mostly for the beautiful sets and costumes."
Such a pleasure....
I. Martinez-Ybor | Miami, FL USA | 12/04/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Cappriccio may well be the perfect opera for DVD. It is not as rare to find in the opera house as it used to be but it still has a way of getting lost in empty spaces unless one is sitting close. So, it is a pleasure to have a performance as good as this, subtitled, with excellent sound, to watch comfortably at home. And what a beautiful, witty "conversation with music" it truly is.
The singers are all excellent with fresh, well focused voices, playing well with and against each other as this paramount ensemble opera demands. Standouts for me were von Otter, a superb musician in top form, as an elegant, decadent, slightly wacky Clarion; Hawlata, as LaRoche, authoritative, sonorous, indeed stentorian and, in the end, humane, as he should be; Reiner Tröst, one of the most beautiful lyric tenor voices around, bringing much poetry and ardor to Flammand, the musician. Renée Fleming is in glorious voice but occassionally, though not very often, brings a strange "pop music" color to the voice quite alien to Strauss. It's an artistic choice I find distracting and baffling and wish she would not take. Her Countess is more country-club than aristocratic, but the vocal splendor makes this sound like quibbling. Indeed, everyone is fine, very musical, and warmly supported and encouraged from the pit. The opening sextet is played ravishingly.
The opera is staged in 1942, otherwise, like in the libretto, at the Countess' chateau outside Paris. It works well and does no violence to the spirit or letter of the work (other than some reference to horses and coaches). However, the DVD producer has grafted some shots to what otherwise seems to be a live Palais Garnier performance, to "open-up" the work, and to me these don't work well at all. Thus during the opening string sextet we see Fleming walking around the Grand Foyer of the Garnier and sitting herself in the auditorium as if she were dropping in on a rehearsal in her chateau's theatre where the characters are gathering. The idea is clever but it proves discontinuous with the performance of the opera itself. Similarly, the great "mondschein" interlude with its ecstatic horn melody later passing on to the strings is visually marred by shots of the Countess and her brother at a box, poet and composer at an opposite box, nodding at each other while waiting for the Final Scene of the opera the latter two have composed for the Countess to begin. Well, to me this is a tasteless distraction, a disastrous lapse: the music is some of the most beautiful and eloquent Strauss ever wrote, it needs nothing but itself. Shots of the orchestra playing it would have sufficed. Other than this gaucherie and the earlier miscalculation, the production is quite witty, energetic and alive.
The overall spirit, drive, and verve of the musical realization and the production, with the added treat of the Palais Garnier setting make any quibbles I may have something to note but dispense with in deciding to acquire this splendid performance. It will give much joy. Repeatedly."
HoloGeo | 02/02/2006
(2 out of 5 stars)
"The production is nice, even if it is not what Strauss wanted, but the "extras" like the shots of Fleming and others sitting in the balconies and watching the opera are distracting and unnecessary.
The singing is good from von Otter and Finley but Fleming's delivery is simply bland, with occasional irritating swooping and other strange (jazz?) mannerisms. Also, her acting is below par, the last scene of her stroking the chairs was ridiculous, and most of the time she seems only interested in looking pretty. I did not care for the costumes, especially the blue dress was odd and almost made Fleming look misshapen at certain angles (just look at the cover!). Overall the whole DVD was a disappointing production. The other Capriccio with te Kanawa is miles ahead."
Stylish, Passionate & Theatrical
David Cady | Jersey City, NJ USA | 04/03/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Canadian wunderkind Robert Carsen's productions veer wildly between the ridiculous (his "Rusalka" for L'Opera de Paris) and the sublime (his recently televised "Eugene Onegin" for the Met). Happily, this "Capriccio" lands firmly in the latter category. Led by the radiant Renee Fleming in a signature role, this is an elegant, thoughtful production that never compromises Strauss's original intent, despite a gratuitous update to German occupied WWII France. (The update does allow Carsen's designers to indulge in some chic, 1940s glamour, to stunning effect.) And for once, Carsen actually seems to have a discernible, not to mention reasonable, point of view about the piece, one that he supports with some unique, at times thrilling, directorial touches. The ending in particular is perfect for an opera in which the very nature of theatricality is so heatedly argued. The cast could not be better, with everyone not only singing beautifully, but acting their roles with wit, passion and unfailing honesty. The aforementioned Fleming, Hawlata and von Otter are standouts. In every way this is an artistically valid companion piece to the more traditional San Francisco production with Te Kanawa, also on DVD."