What's more important, the words or the music?
Though it may sound like a debate topic for one of musical theatre's primo songwriting teams, it's actually the question posed in a fascinating opera by Richard Strauss -- his final work, composed in 1942 -- which receives the full white-glove treatment in its first-ever staging at New York's Metropolitan Opera on Jan. 9.
The opera, set in Paris during the 1780s, tells the story of a widowed countess who is being courted by two suitors -- a composer and a poet -- and the opera they are attempting to write.
Capriccio has a libretto by Strauss and Clemens Krauss (a conductor who was a close friend of the composer), and is being directed by John Cox, who is renowned for his stylish, dramatically incisive productions that get to the heart of what the characters are all about.
Kiri Te Kanawa stars as the Countess Madeleine; the role is one of her signature pieces. The cast also includes Kathryn Harries, David Kuebler, Simon Keenlyside, Kim Josephson and Jan-Hendrik Rootering. The production is conducted by Andrew Davis; set designs are by Mauro Pagano and costume designs are by Martin Battersby.
The opera is being sung in German, with (English) Met Titles. For those who can't get to the Met in person, the final performance of Capriccio will be broadcast live around the world (check your radio listings) on Sat., Jan. 31, 1:30-3:45 PM (ET).
-- By Rebecca Paller