Richard Strauss’s “Intermezzo” at NY City Opera

My first opera of the new season… but, alas, a bore.  Richard Strauss's operas are an acquired taste.  I've acquired the taste for the earlier efforts – Salome, Elektra, Rosenkavalier - but not so much for his post World War I efforts.  (This one dates from 1923.)  He's blown up a simple-minded incident from his earlier life into a full-length opera.  This is autobiographical, the names changed to protect the guilty, but it could come right out of Gilbert & Sullivan: A composer/conductor is on a concert tour.  HIs wife, who stays behind at home with their young son, receives a telegram addressed to her husband, from one "Mitzi", calling him "My Angel," requesting some concert tickets, and suggesting an assignation in the bar after the concert.  Wife flips out, thinking her husband unfaithful, and dashes off a telegram accusing him of betrayal and asserting their life is over.  Husband discovers it is a case of misunderstanding – "Mitzi" has mixed him up with a friend with a similar surname.  Clarification is provided to the wife and they live happily ever after.  This thin plot is to serve for 3 hours…

But it could be made much more entertaining were it not written in a rather boring manner, at least to my way of thinking.  The second act is slightly better than the first, but overall, this unending sung speech without distinct arias or any really memorable, show-stopping tunes, without much in the way of extremes of dynamic contrast or style, is totally soporific. 

City Opera is trying to reestablish itself after the hiatus year and the shortened seasons, but reviving this turkey isn't the way to do it.  In the third ring where I was sitting, there were more empty than occupied seats.  Despite a good review in The Times (certainly earned by the singers, musicians, and production staff), the word is out…

I'm back there this afternoon for Bernstein's "A Quiet Place," which I trust will be better.

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