Intermezzo (opera)

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This article is about the opera by Richard Strauss. For other uses, see Intermezzo (disambiguation).

Intermezzo, Op. 72, is an opera in two acts by Richard Strauss to his own German libretto, described as a Bürgerliche Komödie mit sinfonischen Zwischenspielen (bourgeois comedy with symphonic interludes). It premiered at the Dresden Semperoper on 4 November 1924, with sets that reproduced Strauss' home in Garmisch. The first Vienna performance was in January 1927.[1]

The story depicts fictionally the personalities of Strauss himself (as "Robert Storch") and his wife Pauline (as "Christine")[2] and was based on real incidents in their lives. Pauline Strauss was not aware of the opera's subject before the first performance. After Lotte Lehmann had congratulated Pauline on this "marvelous present to you from your husband", Pauline's reply was reported as "I don't give a damn".[3] The most celebrated music from the opera is the orchestral interludes between scenes.

His usual librettist up to that time, Hugo von Hofmannsthal, refused to work on the opera and suggested that Strauss himself write the libretto, which he eventually did after having been refused by other writers. This is why the libretto is not in verse but in prose and even mimics the dialect used by the servants in the play, against the more polished German of the principals.

The opera's title is intended to refer to the intermezzi that used to be staged during the intermissions of serious operas during the 18th century, sort of mini-comic-operas, easy to follow with themes usually about marital confusions and other light comedies.

Performance history[edit]

The first professional staged US production was at The Santa Fe Opera in 1984, translated into English.[4]

Roles[edit]

Strauss 1922 (Photographer Schmutzer)
Premiere, 4 November 1924
(Fritz Busch)
Christine Storch soprano Lotte Lehmann
Robert Storch, her husband, a conductor baritone Joseph Correck
Anna, their maid soprano Liesel v. Schuch
Franzl, their eight-year-old son spoken
Baron Lummer tenor Theo Strack
The notary baritone Robert Büssel
His wife soprano Elfriede Haberkorn
Stroh, another conductor tenor Hanns Lange
A commercial counselor baritone Ludwig Ermold
A legal counsellor baritone Adolph Schoepflin
A singer bass Willy Bader
Fanny, the Storch's cook' spoken Anna Bolze
Marie and Therese, maids spoken Erna Frese
Resi, a young girl soprano

Synopsis[edit]

Setting: Vienna and Grundlsee during a 1920’s winter

The composer Storch is leaving for a conducting tour, and his wife Christine helps him pack, arguing and nagging along the way. Seeking relief from loneliness she goes tobogganing and collides with a skier, a young Baron who befriends her. They dance together at a ball and she arranges for him to lodge in the house of her notary. The friendship is soured when the Baron asks Christine for financial assistance. She opens a letter, supposedly for her husband, from a lady arranging an assignation. She immediately telegrams Storch demanding they part for ever. In tears, she seeks solace in her son's bedroom but he defends his father.

Storch is playing skat with friends in Vienna when the telegram arrives, and is bewildered by the accusations. Stroh, a conductor friend, admits that he knows the lady and surmises that his and Storch's surnames must have been confused. Christine visits the notary to demand a divorce, but he is unwilling to pursue the matter. She sends the Baron to Vienna to gather evidence of infidelity. Packing to leave, she receives a telegram from her husband saying that Stroh will explain the misunderstanding. Even after Stroh's visit she is reluctant to accept the truth. Storch returns home, and an argument ensues. The Baron arrives with evidence that Stroh rather than Storch had indeed known the lady and Christine dismisses him, assured that her husband is blameless. Storch forgives her anger and teases her about her dalliance with the Baron. Husband and wife declare a renewed love.

Instrumentation[edit]

Strauss scored Intermezzo for the following orchestra:

  • Woodwinds

2 Flutes (Flute 2 doubles Piccolo), 2 Oboes (Oboe 2 doubles English Horn), 2 Clarinets in B-Flat (Clarinet 2 doubles Bass Clarinet in A), 2 Bassoons (2nd bassoon must play low A in Act 2)

  • Brass

3 Horns (in F, E, D, E-flat, and A), 2 Trumpets (in C), 2 Trombones

  • Percussion

Timpani, Suspended Cymbals, Crash Cymbals, Snare Drum, Triangle, Bass Drum, 1 Pair of [sleigh] bells

  • Keyboards

Piano, Harmonium

  • Strings

Harp, Violins I (11), Violins II (9), Violas (5), Violoncelli (5), Contrabasses (3)

Recordings[edit]

Year Cast:
Christine Storch,
Robert Storch,
Anna,
Baron Lummer
Conductor,
Opera House and Orchestra
Label[5]
1963 Hanny Steffek,
Hermann Prey,
Gertrud Freedman,
Ferry Gruber
Joseph Keilberth,
Bavarian State Opera Orchestra and Chorus
VHS Video Cassette: Lyric Distribution (Legato)
Cat: 1818;
DVD Video: Legato Classics[6]
1980 Lucia Popp,
Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau,
Gabriele Fuchs,
Adolf Dallapozza
Wolfgang Sawallisch,
Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra
Audio CD: EMI Classics
Cat: 7 49337-2
1983 Felicity Lott,
John Pringle,
Elizabeth Gale,
Ian Caley
Gustav Kuhn,
London Philharmonic Orchestra
VHS / DVD? Video: Kultur
Cat: CVI 2024
2014 Simone Schneider,
Martina Welschbach,
Peter Nice,
Sophie Mitterhuber
Ulf Schirmer,
Müncher Rundfunkorchester
Audio CD: Classic Produktion Osnabrück,
Cat: 7779012

References[edit]

Notes

  1. ^ "Intermezzo". Time, 27 January 1927
  2. ^ Griffel, Margaret Ross, Review of Norman Del Mar's Richard Strauss: A Critical Commentary on His Life and Works. Volume 2: Notes (2nd ser.), 27(4), pp. 726-726 (1971)
  3. ^ Del Mar, p. 262
  4. ^ Bernard Holland, "Strauss' Intermezzo at Santa Fe Opera". The New York Times, 6 August 1984
  5. ^ Recordings of Intermezzo on operadis-opera-discography.org.uk
  6. ^ Beth Hart, Reviews of video releases of Intermezzo. The Opera Quarterly, 15(3), pp. 608-612 (1999)

Sources

  • Del Mar, Norman, Richard Strauss: A Critical Commentary on His Life and Work, Vol. 2. Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press, 1986)
  • Kennedy, Michael, in Holden, Amanda (ed.) (2001), The New Penguin Opera Guide, New York: Penguin Putnam. ISBN 0-14-029312-4

External resources[edit]

BBC Opera guide: Intermezzo