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October 2014
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Next Up at Lyric: Capriccio

Renee Fleming as the Countess in Lyric Opera of Chicago's "Capriccio," c. Ken Howard

Renee Fleming as the Countess in Lyric Opera of Chicago's "Capriccio," c. Ken Howard

Monday at 7:15 pm

What would steal your heart: a love sonnet or a string sextet?

Two rivals, a poet and a musician, clamor for the affections of a capricious Countess in Richard Strauss’s 1942 opera Capriccio.

Each according to his talents, the suitors offer gestures of undying love (a Sonnet and the opening String Sextet); which Strauss parlays into a heated debate among a six-member ensemble – which is the greater art: words or music?

Lyric Opera of Chicago’s Capriccio is set in 1920s Paris, and filled with flirty repartee written by Clemens Krauss and the composer.

Renée Fleming is the Countess, though she doesn’t claim victory for her own character: “My feeling is that Strauss has the last word…It ends with the horn solo; and that was his father’s instrument. That’s how he started his career and his life – through his father being a great instrumentalist – so I think he says, ‘Sorry, I get the last word and the answer is music.'”

According to Lyric Opera, Capriccio has some of Strauss’s most luscious music. It’s a favorite of many Strauss aficionados. Renée Fleming remembers falling in love with the piece while she was training in Frankfort:



Bo Skovhus, Anne Sofie von Otter, and Peter Rose





Was Capriccio an act of civil disobedience?

According to Danish baritone Bo Skovhus, who sings the role of the Count, the near octogenarian Strauss was under pressure to write something to rally the war effort in Nazi Germany. “They hoped that he would write, you know, something about heroes and German soul, and then he writes a piece about nothing: ‘what is more important: words or music?'” Mr. Skovhus argues, “that really shows what he thought about the whole situation during the War, Richard Strauss, he didn’t want to take any part in anything of it.”


Capriccio runs through October 28th at the Civic Opera House. Listen to WFMT’s opening night broadcast on Monday, October 6, 2014 at 7:15 pm. Listen online and view the subtitles at


William Burden, Renee Fleming, and Audun Iversen




Countess: Renée Fleming
Clairon: Anne Sofie von Otter
Count: Bo Skovhus
Flamand: William Burden
Olivier: Audun Iversen
La Roche: Peter Rose

Lyric Opera Orchestra
Conductor: Sir Andrew Davis
Original Director: John Cox
Revival Director: Peter McClintock

  • Dan

    Why was the broadcast sound so distorted yesterday evening?