Well, I don't know. At the end of the first act I was about ready to
give it up as a lost cause. But finally, in the second act I began to
The plot is based on an actual incident in the composer's life. A musician
friend of the composer with a somewhat similar sounding name, omitted to
correct (shall we say) the impression of a female acquaintance of less than
sterling reputation that he was the famous composer. She writes him a letter,
in a rather familiar tone, suggesting they meet at a bar after the opera,
as they have done before. The composer is away in Vienna for a month, for
rehearsals and an opening. The letter is opened by his wife, who is
disconcerted (believe me, this lady disconcerts easily - she makes Carmen
look serene). She starts divorce proceedings. The composer is, in turn,
disconcerted, but his friend soon confesses the origin of the confusion.
But the wife refuses to listen to any explanation until eventually the
friend is sent posthaste from Vienna to Garmish Partenkirken to explain
it in person. Then all is reconciled.
The above plot is stretched over two and a half hours.
Strauss's idea was to make all the dialog into recitatifs, delivered in the
most natural manner possible, with no arias, or musical flourishes of any sort.
The music was then wrapped around these dialogs rather in the manner of a movie
sound track, though, Strauss being Strauss, rather better integrated into
the whole. It took me quite a while to get used to the fact that I could
more or less ignore the dialog (in common with soap operas, this opera is
so constructed that you can miss a random half hour and not lose the thread),
and just enjoy the way the music wraps around the action. I was quite
bored the whole first act, but rather enjoyed the second act. Maybe I
can see it again in a year or two or three, and, knowing what to expect,
enjoy the whole thing.
Apparently this opera was a total surprise to his wife until she saw it
at the primiere. Finding her looking rather smoldery after the show, an
acquaintance told her to look on the bright side - it did show how much
he loved her. Her response - "I don't give a damn."
I never know quite what to think about Strauss. I think "Ariadne auf Naxos"
is terrific and hillarious, "Arabella" is stupid but rather sweet,
"Fledermaus" and "Countess Maritza" are sort of at the level of run of the
mine broadway musicals, and I rather disapprove of "Rosenkavalier" (They
tell me it's all a big joke, but I don't get it).