Garsington has a long track record with Richard Strauss, and in their 30th season, they return to his operatic will and testament, Capriccio.
He described it as a conversation piece, and its characters – the sister and brother who own a chateau outside Paris around 1775, and who are keen patrons of the arts, plus their theatrical guests – discourse about the art of opera and the relationship between the various elements that go to make it up.
In the wrong hands, the result could be dry as dust, but Strauss, here at his most witty and yet most lyrically effusive, turns the discussion and the final moment of decision – when the Countess has to choose between her suitors, a writer and a composer – into one of his most involving scores.
It certainly holds the attention in Tim Albery’s staging to handsome designs by Tobias Hoheisel that blend the 18th century of the original with the period of the work’s creation in 1940-41; the result is a very good-looking show.
It sounds wonderful, too, with the Garsington Opera Orchestra excelling itself under the company’s artistic director, Douglas Boyd, who allows Strauss’ long lines to flow as he elucidates the complexity of the composer’s super-enriched harmonies and gorgeous orchestral writing.
Miah Persson provides the centre of attention as the deeply sentient Countess, her final solo scene unforgettable in its expressive warmth. Andrew Shore stands up for the theatre that has been his life as the old director La Roche, with Hanna Hipp a bracing presence as the actress Clairon.
Sam Furness and Gavan Ring relish their permanent stand-off as rivals composer Flamand and poet Olivier respectively, while Graham Clark delivers a superb cameo as the ancient prompter Monsieur Taupe, whom everyone needs but whom all have forgotten.