Gustav Kuhn

Richard Strauss: Intermezzo [DVD Video]

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Intermezzo is among Strauss' least performed and least recorded operas, so it's a treat to see and hear it in a performance as entertaining and persuasive as this one. The recording, capturing a 1983 English-language production at the Glyndebourne Festival, makes a strong case for the opera. There is plenty of credit to spread around to account for the success of the performance. Andrew Porter's translation is clear and idiomatic. Intermezzo is one of Strauss' talkiest operas, and it's a comedy, so it requires immediate comprehension to make an impact, and Porter's witty text beautifully delivers. It also requires skilled comedians to avoid coming off as leaden, and this ensemble is fully up to the task. It maintains just the right light approach to play up the opera's subtle humor. Felicity Lott is fabulous as Christine, soaring easily and brilliantly over the orchestra, and she's a riveting actress. The supporting cast, John Pringle as her husband, Ian Caley as the Baron, and Elizabeth Gale as Anna the chambermaid, are all compelling singing actors, but this is Lott's show, and she makes it fly. The staging by John Cox is realistic and believable, and never lets the opera's surfeit of verbiage weigh down the action. The settings by Martin Battersby beautifully evoke the era, and his costumes add a delicious whimsicality to the production. Gustav Kuhn conducts the London Philharmonic in a lively and engaging reading of the score. Intermezzo is a tricky piece to pull off, but the musical and dramatic excellence of this production makes it clear that it's possible to do when all the right elements are in place.