Close on the heels of Jonathan Miller’s abysmal updating of Stravinsky’s Rake’s Progress at the Met comes the scarcely less misguided Capriccio, set by John Cox in the 1920s. Richard Strauss’s fifteenth and last opera, from 1942 when he was seventy-eight, is a summation of the old composer’s insights into the making and producing of operas. With a libretto by himself and the conductor Clemens Krauss, the work calls itself “a conversation piece with music.” Indeed, its characters debate in a 1775 salon which comes first in opera, the words or the music, as well as related matters.

In her house near Paris, Countess Madeleine entertains the composer Flamand and the poet Olivier who vie for her love; her brother, the Count, a clever philistine with little use for opera except as it supplies singers and dancers for his bed; and the impresario La Roche (an affectionate caricature of...


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