The Metropolitan Opera HD Live (2006–…): Season 5, Episode 10 - R. Strauss: Capriccio - full transcript

Which is greater among the arts, poetry or music? The opera explores that question in an allegorical tale: the Countess (Fleming), is torn between two suitors, the poet Olivier (Russell Braun) and the composer Flamand (Joseph Kaiser).

She's as enchanting as ever!

You, too?

Her eyes are closed.

She's listening intently.

Like him?

Quiet, you!

She keeps her eyes open...

...when I read her my poems.

I prefer that.

You, too?

I don't deny it.

What does that make us?

Devoted foes.

Friendly opponents.

Words or music?

She must decide that.

First the words, then the music.

First the music, then the words.

Music and words....

They're brother and sister.

The metaphor is bold.

One sleeps best of all to gentle music.

Such men decide our fate!

Without me, your works are dead on the page.

But with you, authors are slaves.

And my splendid scenery?


My painter is from the Royal Opera.

Then I pity Maestro Gluck.

Gluck drowns "Iphigenia" with learned music!

He is great Corneille's successor.

No memorable tunes!

The orchestra covers the words.

His music enthralls us.

Months of rehearsal!
And the heroic drama ends as a flop.

The public is furiously divided.

Problems! Reforms! Spare me!

But the theater is full.

Sold out!

It's only fashion!

Society people sit in their boxes,
yawning and making chitchat.

While looking at the scenery, they wait impatiently...

...for the tenor's high notes.

Shades of Lully and Rameau!

Nothing surpasses Italian opera.

The awful librettos?

The lovely music!

The arias delight, and so do the singers.

Comic opera, above all, succeeds.

Both rich and poor can grasp it.

It entertains the man in the street.

Opera is more than that.

As you well know.

You're the expert!

Yesterday I saw old Goldoni
in the Café de Foi.

"Your operas are awful!" he cried.
"Heaven to see, but hellish to hear."

"You wait in vain for arias.
They all sound like recitatives!"

Who cares what that Venetian thinks!

He writes for his compatriots.

"Gondola! Gondola!"

He writes for ordinary people.

What about our poets?
They're stuck in the past!

Turks and Persians, prophets of old,
that's all they write about.

It bores the public to death.

They want to see real people,
flesh and blood creatures.

You play to the masses!

Doing silly farces!

We offer only quality!

Witty vaudevilles, opera buffa!

And we feature feminine charm.

For aging Casanovas!

Yet a lovely leading lady
tempted even you, I believe.

Lovely Clairon!
He knows better than most.

That's past, all past!

Your romance has crumbled, it seems.

But I still admire her great talent.

The Count will admire it even more.

Clairon's coming here to rehearse.

The Count's acting with her?

He's going to try.

He'll be supported by
the power of your verses.

But look! The Countess rises,
still clearly moved by your music.

Was it really that good? Such a pity!

I slept right through it.

Her eyes are lost in dreams.

An enchanting smile plays on her lips.

She is a woman apart!

Such wit and charm!

Young, radiant, and fair!

And a widow!

They're coming.
Off we go to our rehearsal!

Now I swing into action,
doing what I do best.

Good staging...that's the secret.

Above all, be expressive.

Rule number one!

The stream of sounds swept me away
to distant realms of enchantment.

The violins beguiled my ear...

...but not my soul.

The critic speaks!

You love music...
and Flamand as well?

I'm fond of Couperin,
but his music can be shallow.

Rameau is inspired.
I often sing his pieces.

But such an unpleasant man!

Thinking of him spoils his music for me.

The pleasure is lost.

Keep man and music separate.

I'd like to.

But you can't. I saw that.

I listened with my eyes closed.

Secretly glancing at the composer?

I see complete harmony there.

I must admit it.

Nature and art, so well matched!

Let me enjoy such pleasures.

I felt something new as I listened.

Nameless emotions rose within me.
Let them remain nameless.

What music implies, the poet explains.

Olivier's play is splendid.

Such acclaim, my skeptical brother!

But it's the leading lady
who intrigues you most.

You, too, have admired Clairon.
She disarms all criticism.

I'm intimidated by the thought
of acting with her.

No matter. You have a title
and poetry to help you.

Don't laugh! You have two suitors.

Do you favor words or music?

Just listening to both, that's what I favor.

Milady, where does that path lead?

Yours leads to the unknown.

You smile on one today,
the other tomorrow.

The call of the spirit echoes in my heart.

The poet's more ardent.

I live for the moment.

Who knows one's fate?

Which will you choose?

Neither, since choosing means losing.

Casually losing, casually winning,
that's life's true beauty and reward.

Earnestly winning, tenderly holding,
life at its truest, the highest prize.

Blithely deciding.

Happily knowing.

Heedlessly owning.

Quietly yielding.

Seizing the moment.

Moment of happiness.

Wisdom eternal!

-Earnestly winning, tenderly holding.
-Casually losing, casually winning.

Life at its truest...

...the highest prize.

We've settled the program
for your birthday celebration.

It will be a noble contest.

First, young Flamand's symphony.

Then Olivier's drama,
with me playing the lover.

As ardent fan or as hero?

I'll provide the finale.

Another dramatized proverb
with songs thrown in.

Not at all! A true extravaganza!

A festive homage!

But I'll say no more about it.

A dark secret!

Magnificent scenery, a ballet... some Italian opera singers.

Voices, milady, to amaze you.

Dazzling roulades, trills,
high notes from the tenor. Sublime!

Music used as decor!

Thus speaks envy.

Vacuous verses!

Who cares when music triumphs?

She's here! Let me greet her.

So you convinced her to come after all.

The famous tragedienne in traveling clothes!

If she could sing as well,
she'd be irresistible.

High priestess of the muses,
the heavenly Clairon!

I've so often marvelled at your art.

Andromache! Phaedra!
Medea! Roxane!

You've upstaged my entrance,
my dearest La Roche.

I fear that after such tributes,
whatever I say may disappoint you.

But how charming to hear you
speaking prose instead of verse!

Your spontaneity guarantees
you'll triumph in real life, too.

We who deal in illusion must not
approach reality too closely.

Or art may burn its wings.

Is your play finished yet, Olivier?

My role just seems to trail off.

Are you being coy or gallant... withholding the love scene from us?

Just a matter of inspiration,
and it came to me this morning.

His play is ready.

Let me see the poet's newest
creation here and now.

And we'll see a sample of your acting skill.

Out of respect for the author...

...I'll reveal to you all the limits of my talent.

"You're leaving."

"Has the power that joined us faded?"

"Is the pathway of return so easily recovered?"

"You once gazed upon me tenderly.
But your eyes now blaze..."

" blaze with rash desire
for challenge and adventure."

"I am leaving."

"But ere I go to battle,
take this pledge as my farewell."

"My heart and soul are yours..."

"...and yours alone."

"Leave me but my head and hand
for a swift and certain victory."

"But the world's enticements
may make you forget me."

"O goddess! To you alone
shall I return the victor!"

"For other shores you..."

"..are yearning."

"Desire makes men forgetful."

"What you now possess in me
may pale beside such yearnings."

"What yearning, what desire
survives the fire of your love?"

"Then swear an oath that I may witness it!"

"No other stirs such passion in me.
No, fair one, no one on this earth."

"No other fills me with such longing.
Not even Venus rivals you in this."

"Your eyes bespeak delight and woe.
And if a glance may cause me pain..."

"...another will elicit joy again.
They grant me life, or else death."

"If I live five hundred thousand years,
no one but you may claim my heart."

Bravo! You are no amateur!

I must learn much more
about your acting skills.

Take the drama and stage it.

Decide our entrances.
Judge our every gesture.

Direct the rehearsal, and be our mentor.

Our stage is lighted. Come, friends.

Not you!

My sensibilities refuse to let the author
watch me shape his play.

Trust me, and be patient.

The muse's lips have touched him!

My imagination requires
complete unfettered freedom.

My dearest La Roche, you're a genius!

Away he goes, a philosopher
about to be converted!

He acted most forcefully.

The lover in your play...

...reveals his feelings,
and at considerable length.

But the Count sent them
to the wrong address.

Allow me to correct the error.

"No other stirs such passion in me.
No, fair one, no one on this earth."

"No other fills me with such longing.
Not even Venus rivals you in this."

That's rather devious... the message.

"Your eyes bespeak both bliss and woe."

"And if a glance may cause me pain,
another will elicit joy again."

"One grants me life, or else, death."

"If I live five hundred thousand years..."

" one but you may claim my heart."

"And since it is already overflowing..."

" room remains for any other love."

A lovely poem, soaring like a comet!
But how cruelly you treat it.

You declaim for all to hear
what was meant for me alone.

Vows of love shouldn't be published.

Don't you agree, Flamand?

His poem is exquisite.
I already hear it as music.

What are you up to?

Let him be.

As you see, music, too,
is a matter of inspiration.

My lovely sonnet!

Don't disturb him!

But what harm can he do?

Great harm! He'll set me to music!

Is that so bad? Wait and hear.

He'll ruin my poem!

Or grant it a nobler existence.

My lovely poem, drowned in music!

You fret about your poem,
even now, when we're alone.

Have you nothing to tell me in prose?

My prose fails me.

You know that I'm on fire!

A perilous condition.

No, not yet!

Please show a bit of restraint.

Always restraint, and never fulfillment!

Yet hope is sweet.

Shall I hope, then?

Every fire needs fanning...

...and love is a fire.

Without hope or fear, it dies.

You torment me, Madeleine!

Your enchanting gaze
has enslaved me to one thought.

May all my devotion and talent
serve to win your heart.

He wants to win it, too.
See him composing!

Does music truly speak to you?

It awakens dark dreams.

A flood of feelings,
beauty beyond words.

And the clarity of a keen mind?

Does it mean so little?

I cherish the poet's words,
but they cannot plumb the depths.

You're evading me. Admit it!

A slender figure and a pleasing face
win out over intellect and wit.

A trite perception.

You forget that his good looks
are matched by his gifts.

I can't deny it.

But have some mercy!

On you?

On him?

Or both of you?

Crown the victor!

I've done it!

We are listening.

"No other stirs such passion in me."

"No, fair one, no one on this earth."

"No other fills me with such longing."

"Not even Venus rivals you in this."

"Your eyes bespeak delight and woe."

"And if a glance may cause me pain..."

"...another will elicit joy again."

"They grant me life, or else death."

"And if I live five hundred thousand years..."

" one but you may claim my heart."

"And since it is already overflowing..."

" room remains there for any other love."

-The poet's verses, brilliantly clear!
-I knew he would destroy my poem!

"No other stirs such passion."

What he had never imagined,
another has revealed.

The divine symmetry is lost.

The rhyme's destroyed!

The sense is broken up!

Was the music always there,
waiting to embrace his words?

Does speech carry song within it?

Or must it create it anew?

Each lives in the other,
longs for the other.

Words crave music, music longs for words.

How beautiful the words are!
I hardly recognize them.

How heartfelt in expression!

Well, Olivier? So silent?

So pensive?

Does my critique displease you?

Now I'm wondering if
the sonnet is by him, or by me.

Whose is it now?

Allow me to make it mine.

A memento of the day!

It's yours alone now!

Your poem seems even more brilliant.

You stole it to flatter the ear.

Fine ideas and noble music
make a perfect pair.

Say what you will, dear friend.

You two are joined forever in my sonnet.

Pardon, milady, but we need
the author at rehearsal.

We want approval for a tiny cut.
It will make the play.

La Roche as surgeon...
now it's getting dangerous.

Your brainchild has one arm too long.

First a tiny cut, then, goodbye arm!

Now you know my feelings.

Blinded by your beauty,
I stand here, awaiting your verdict.

You both confuse me.

My doubts make me waver.


Music or poetry.

Flamand, Olivier...who wins the prize?

Your music had charmed me already,
winning out over mere words.

You gave them life.

Your arts are so interwoven.

That's your doing.

Words sing, music speaks.

And both say, I love you!

My love was born by chance one afternoon.

You came into your library.

You didn't see me.

You held a book in your lovely hands.

I sat silently in the corner...

...not breathing, not daring to move.

You went on reading.
I sat watching.

Twilight began to fall.

Enchanted, I gazed upon you.

Then closed my eyes.

Music flooded all my being,
a torrent of emotions!

When I looked again, you had gone.

The book lay open where you had left it.

I picked it up, and read this passage...

"For the lover,
silence says more than words."

"Silence has an eloquence
more expressive than speech."

I lingered there, still aware
of the nearness of your thoughts.

It had grown darker.

I was alone.

Since then, I've been transformed.

I live only to love you.

You're ignoring the book.
Why resort to words?

You've switched roles with Olivier.

You heard me declare my love.
But the music failed to touch you.

Your feeling was well expressed.

So I was right to declare it?

"The joy of unspoken love..."

"...has thorns, but also sweetness."

More quotations and evasions!

I want an answer, whatever it may be!

Give me a sign, a word!

Not here and now!

When? Where?

Where your love was born.

In the library, today.

No, tomorrow.

Early tomorrow?

Tomorrow at eleven.


Serve us the choolate here in the salon.

How delightful to know her!
Clairon is enchanting!

She praised my recitation
and my acting skills.

You've given in to her flattery.

Such praise is seductive.

We love those who admire us.
Just as we think we love...

...those we admire.

Clear minds know what everything is worth.

Then don't pay too much, my clever brother.

You really think I'd lose my head?

The heart rules all lovers.

Only a fool would resist
such charm and beauty.

Then yield to it, knowing its worth.

My own problem is more serious.

I've had two fervent avowals of love!

What brought that about?

The poet's sonnet.

The sonnet from the play?

He recited it to me.

Were you moved?

Not quite.

It left you cold?

Until the other...

Who, Flamand?

...set it to music.

What? He has set the sonnet?

To the horror of the poet.

What did Olivier say?

He was angry first, then perplexed.

Yet they joined forces?

And besieged me.

What will come of it?

Who can say?

An opera?

An opera! Charming!
My sister as muse!

Don't tease me!

Which would you choose?

I still favor words.

Then good luck with Clairon.

She's Venus and Minerva joined as one.

We return to the world of the salon.

We update the action.

No longer mythical beings,
we play roles dictated by society.

Thankless roles, at times.

That depends on the cues, no?

Were you happy with your partner?

He showed wit and talent.

But imagine!
The prompter fell asleep.

That bodes ill for your drama.

Your prompter is always asleep!

Even so, the Count never missed a cue.

Such rare presence of mind!

Dare we hope you'll spend the evening with us?

Alas, I must return to Paris.

There's a royal gala tomorrow night.

We're doing Voltaire's "Tancrede."
I still have lines to learn.

The prompter might fall asleep again.

Before you go, have some refreshment.

We very nearly drowned in a sea of verse.

Some chocolate might revive us.

And while we savor it, milady,
allow me to offer you a treat.

A bit of dancing.

Then two Italian singers.

I'm sure we'll all enjoy it.

You like her? Grace personified!

My latest discovery.

A little girl from Picardy.
I found her through the Vicomte de-

He'd been hiding her.

I managed to spirit her off to my ballet school.

A major talent!

I foresee a bright future for her... the highest royal circles.

Tomorrow she dances for the Prince de Conti.

What physical control!

Such youthful freshness!

A dream!

How could I ever thank you?

You speak my verse exquisitely.

I'm determined to stop you
from admiring me any longer.

Save your compliments.

Must we be enemies forever?

Further conversation
between us seems pointless.

Yet you and the Count will
have much to speak of.

He's a dilettante.

It's a mask to conceal his youth.

Men in masks make me uneasy.

He, too, will fall under your spell.

You're quite good at predicting the future.

So you must see
that for us only the past exists.

A lovely past, though!

But it ended with a crash.
The curtain has fallen.

Well, I doubt you'll get much of a mention...

...when Clairon writes her memoirs.

Your art enchants me.

Just as thought frees the spirit
and transports us on high...

...dancing conquers gravity.

The body seems to float on music.

My dear Flamand, you must admit it.
Here your art is not supreme.

It is just an accessory.

A charming error.

Without music,
no one would think of lifting a foot.

Dance and music are slaves to rhythm.

Meter is a worse constraint.

Poets are free to play within it.

What separates form from content?

Something more

It soars past the reach of thought.

My thoughts are shaped by a clarity
music could never achieve.

My thoughts exist as melodies,
something deeper than words.

In a single chord you can sense a universe.

They fight for artistic primacy.

Yet both are servants in the theater.

It's a burning issue today.

Music reluctantly serves theatrical illusion.

Not illusion!
The stage shows us reality.

Its magical mirror reflects us all.

It is a symbol of life itself.

There, imagination reigns supreme,
well served by all the arts.

Where would words and music be
without performers?

Without their glamour,
their costumes and makeup?

You overestimate your texts.

Poetry reflects the world.
She is the mother of the arts.

But music sang her lullaby
over their cradle.

Yet speech alone is the soil
in which they flourish.

The cry of pain precedes all speech.

But only in words may pain be defined.

Tragedy requires verbal expression.
Music cannot convey it.

And yet a genius has proved
that musical tragedy exists.

Stop! We're at the abyss.

We're face-to-face with opera!

A lovely prospect, I say!

Rather odd, this mingling
of words and music!

And recitatives!

Composer and poet,
each hindering the other...

...striving to bring it to life.

Opera is quite absurd.

Orders are sung,
politics debated in duets.

They dance on gravestones,
and commit murder melodiously.

I don't mind characters expiring
while they sing an aria.

But why are the words always
worse than the music?

They are expressive only because of music.

With Gluck, things are different.

He guides his poets.

For he understands our passions,
and wakes their hidden strength.

But even for him poetry is a stepchild.

He alone sets music free.

If words and music are equals,
they can sing as one.

If only there were no recitatives!

Who can bear such boredom?

They lack melody's charm
and the force of words.

In old-fashioned opera perhaps,
but not in Gluck's hands.

Given such rich orchestral support,
they are central to his dramas.

Then are arias doomed?

The greatest problem is the racket
made by the orchestra.

The singers are forced to shout.

The words don't matter if you can't hear them.

Where is singing, that God-given gift?

The voice, man's first instrument,
has been sold into bondage.

The old Italian tradition is no more.

Bel canto is slowly dying.

A theatrical death!

That obituary is surely premature.

Before it does expire, La Roche,
may we hear your singers?

It will help us appreciate Italian vocal art.

Give us a demonstration of your "subservient" art!

You'll hear an operatic duet
with a text by Metastasio.

A pleasant end to our discussion.

"Addio, my beloved, addio!"

"Do not lament my fate."

"I do not grieve..."

"...knowing you are faithful."

"Fate may take you from me..."

"...but with your sweet name
still upon my lips..."

"...I shall die."

What a cheerful goodbye!

But the music doesn't really match the text.

With such lovely melody,
no one really cares.

Art alone expresses grief pleasingly.

Through it, we feel grief
while being consoled, somehow.

"If you remain true to me,
what more can I wish?"

"Who has ever known the joy I feel?"

"Addio, my beloved, addio!"

May I take you back to Paris,
and enjoy more of your company?

If you'll help me to memorize my part.

I'll do anything you ask!

Don't say that.

Why not at least say it?

I'm sure you seldom say
what you really mean.

Can you read my mind?

Do you think that's hard?

Your cues are not always easily answered.

Your philosophy permitting,
you may accompany me.

You fill me with joy.

You have a handsome...soul.

No doubt you express yourself
most elegantly...

...with any number of clichés.

Are your Italians part of my fete?

Yes, but only a very small part.

We've waited for days to hear your plans.

We are thirsty for information.

Tell us the program at last.

My tribute, featuring all my artists,
is divided into two parts.

First comes a dramatized allegory.

The Birth of Pallas Athene.

From the head of Zeus,
the goddess is born.

According to the legend,
after Zeus begat her with Metis...

...he swallowed the mother.


Gulped her down as a fish would.

Out of love?

Out of hunger.

Out of fear of Juno!

The mistress hidden from the jealous wife!

An odd way to hide a mistress!

Athene, the offspring of his mind...

...emerges from the god's head.

Such a painful delivery!

What a headache for Zeus!

Bass drums and cymbals depict
the shock to the cosmos.

They're laughing at him,
and he's so serious!

"From Zeus's brow
she suddenly bursts forth."

"With cymbals and drums!"
Zing! Boom!

They laugh in their ignorance.

Young people today have no respect.

Your imagination overwhelms us.
Can such things be staged?

But you mustn't mind us.
We're only amateurs.

Your genius will prevail.

But what is the second part like?

Heroic, and highly dramatic!

The Destruction of Carthage!

A scenic marvel!

Crowds dashing to and fro,
the city in flames, a sea of fire.

Cut-glass columns lighted from behind.

Mirrors, candles, a hundred torches.

A storm-tossed ship at sea,
struck by lightning onstage.

The sails ignite, a blazing wreck.
A tidal wave engulfs the harbor.

Stop! We know the end!

And atop the rubble, a grand ballet!

But listen to me!
It will be quite different.

-Old-fashioned rubbish!
-Processions! Water music!

My rescue attempt failed.

Don't worry, he'll defend himself.

They're pounding him to bits!

Don't worry, he's made of strong stuff!

There goes our advance!

Addio, sweet fee!

Words versus music?

Why not flying rigs or trapdoors?

You're both going too far!

He'll defend himself.

Why have an orchestra?

Or transparent scenery?

A thunder machine is better!

They'll sing on top of this?

Trills! Roulades!

No good! No good!

Enough of your aesthetics!

Hold on, you champions of art!

You dare to mock my splendid theater?

What gives you the right
to patronize and insult me?

Me, a seasoned expert?

What have you done in the theater?

Your words succeed, thanks to Clairon.

But your static, ill-made dramas?

How badly they need my staging!

And your little pieces for strings?

Pleasant enough in the salon.

Alas, I slept through one today.

Yes, such music is easy.

But passionate music,
such as the stage demands?

This you have not yet shown us.

No, no, I don't fear your disapproval!

How can mere boys know
what I strive for?

I serve theater's eternal laws.

I preserve all that is worthy.

Our precious birthright.

I piously protect the old,
while patiently awaiting the new.

Awaiting the masterworks of our own time.

But where are the works
that speak to people's hearts?

That reflect their souls?

Where are they? I cannot find them.

Only bloodless critics of the past
who themselves do nothing new.

Their cardboard heroes strut about...

...brandishing their swords
and spouting their tired tirades.

In opera, the same thing.

High priests, Greek kings...

...druids and prophets,
trudging endlessly out of the wings.

I want human beings on my stage.

People just like us.

Their sorrows should move us,
their joys should elate us.

Arise! Create the works I seek,
and I shall proudly produce them.

Sharpen your wits.

Give the theater
fresh precepts, fresh meaning.

If not, spare me your critiques.

Now, at the zenith of my career,
dare I mention myself... a discoverer of talent,
as a mentor and guide?

Without men like me,
where would theater be?

Concede the worth of what I do.

My aims are sincere, my values lasting.

I fight for beauty, for dignity,
for all that is noble in the theater.

With these words in my heart,
I devote my life to the theater.

And I will go on living when
its chronicles are written.

"This way to the stars!"

And on my tombstone
you will read this inscription:

Here lies La Roche, the unforgettable.

The immortal impresario.

Friend to the comic muse,
and champion of serious art.

A father of the stage,
a guiding light to artists.

Beloved of the gods.

Admired by mankind.

La Roche, you are great!

Come on! He's not dead yet!
Don't make such a scene!

You heard our friend's admonition.

Now take his words to heart.

Do what he asks of you,
and let his art serve yours.

Join hands to create a work.

Heaven help us!
She's commissioning an opera!

You've had a heated debate,
contradicting each other in vain.

Give up this war of ideas.

Can't we agree?

The arts have but one homeland:

These hearts of ours,
which seek out beauty alone.

A tender plant sprouted today.

I see it growing into a mighty tree,
showering blossoms upon us.

The goddess of harmony descends.

O arts, join hands to greet her.

May the poet nobly express
what Apollo has inspired in you.

And may what poetry began
be now transfigured by music.

Let it take shape on his stage,
full of dignity and grace.

This bond unites the arts.
Lovingly they yield to one another.

Joyously they prepare for the festive day.

The goddess of harmony descends.

Who can resist her power?

Let us end our pointless feud.

Let the goddess show us the way.

And we shall follow
wherever the goddess leads us.

Let our quarrel be forgotten!

Reconciled, we resume our noble task.

That goes beyond reconciliation.

It's a plot! Against me!

We shall have a new opera.
You cannot prevent it.

What can I do but endure it?
An opera is about to engulf me!

Your lament falls on deaf ears.

My brother isn't very musical.

He prefers military marches.

He describes composers as word-killers.

-Now straight to work.
-Perhaps he's right.

Let's waste no time!

Consider the singers.
Keep the orchestra in check.

You can let loose in the ballet.

More of his ancient wisdom!

Delay the prima donna's big scene.

Make the words clear and simple.

Forget your timeworn rules.
We seek new paths.

Don't be presumptuous.
Your success depends on me.

Choose a subject drawn
from your own experience.

Wait! I have a marvelous idea.

Write an opera just as he suggests.

Portray yourselves.

Show what happened here today.

Write it, and then compose it.

And present it as an opera.

An amazing suggestion!

Undeniably so.

Such a plot would interest even us.

A delightful notion!

The latest of today's surprises.

Staging it will be a problem.

Not much action.

Then do something truly new.

Leave the music to me.

And we're the characters.

We'll all be in it!

Will it be a comic opera?

I see myself as a basso buffo.

Anyway, there won't be any heroes.

Who plays the lover?

Few of us could avoid it.

It's a fine idea.
I'll draft a scenario at once.

It's getting late.
I must return to Paris.

I must go, too.
Are you two coming?

We've kept you here too long already.

In your salon, the hours fly by.

Yet time itself stands still.


Mademoiselle Clairon.

Write me a good part, Olivier.

Till next we meet.

Bundle up well.
Don't catch cold going home.

Yes, yes, your advance.
You'll get it tomorrow.

Is the car ready?

The coupe, sir.

I'd expected a limousine, at least.

"Prima le parole, dopo la musica."
The words take precedence.

No, music first,
but born of the words.

"Prima la musica."
She has decided.

Yes, for the words!
"Prima le parole."

Come along, you two.

We'll continue our talk
on the way into town.

And don't forget my big scene,
where I mount a rehearsal.

A field marshal of the stage!
The climactic scene, perhaps.

And be sure I get effective exits.
It makes all the difference.

The last impression.

That was a fine to-do!
With everybody shouting at once.

That Italian girl!
She's eaten all the cake!

Why did the director go
on and on like that?

I didn't get it.

Something about reforming
the theater before he dies.

Next thing, they'll be putting
servants in their operas.

The whole world's going crazy.

Now everyone's an actor!

But that doesn't fool us.

We see what goes on backstage.

From there you get quite a different view.

The Count pursues a new affair.

The Countess is in love.

But she isn't sure with whom.

Maybe with both.

And to help her decide,
they're writing an opera.

How can an opera do that?

They sing the words
so you can't get them.

Just as well, or you'd go crazy
trying to figure out the plot.

Stop your pretentious babbling!

I like the tightrope walkers.
The troupe has a royal charter.

I saw them in Versailles.

So did I. Thrilling!

And then that gruesome play!
Coriolanus, stabbing his daughter!

I like puppets much better.

Arlecchino is funnier.

Could we put on an entertainment
for her ladyship's birthday?

I know an Italian clown.
I'm sure he'd help us out.

Finish up here.

Prepare the supper.

Afterwards, you're free.

What a pleasure!
An evening without guests!

Now we're off to the kitchen
to see what there is.

Supper must be served,
and then we're free.

Glorious! What a pleasure!

An evening without guests!

The Count is pursuing an affair of the heart.

The Countess is in love, but with whom?

Where is the director?

How did you get in? Who are you?

You wouldn't know me.

I'm seldom seen above ground.

What do you mean?

I live underground, invisible.

But you're visible now.

I am the unseen ruler of a magic realm.

What were you doing in there?

I'd fallen asleep.
They forgot all about me.

Do you mind saying who you are?

I'm the prompter, Monsieur Taupe.

I'm delighted to know you.

Welcome to our world of reality.

I'm just passing through.
Briefly, at that.

You're a most unusual man.

And an important one, it seems.

Indeed! Not until I'm in my box
can the stage start working.

So you, in a way, set it in motion.

Whispering a poet's deepest thoughts,
I bring everything to life.

Shadowy forms are my reality.

My own whispering makes me sleepy.

And if I fall asleep,
it causes a sensation.

The actors stop dead,
and the audience wakes up.

Well said!

Sleep alone saves me from oblivion.

Not this time.
They forgot all about you.

I'm really ill-treated!

A fate you share with all rulers.

They left me stranded.

How do I get back to Paris?

It's too far to walk.
Come with me to the pantry, sir.

After you take some refreshment,
a car will take you into town.

You're very kind!

Follow me!

Is all this really a dream?

Or am I awake?

Where is my brother?

He left for Paris with
Mademoiselle Clairon.

He asks to be excused this evening.

So I will have supper alone.

I envy him his temperament.

He lives for the moment.

How did he put it?
"Blithely deciding..."

"...seizing the moment, life's greatest wisdom."

Ah, how simple!

Monsieur Olivier will come tomorrow morning.

He will ask her ladyship
how the opera should end.

How the opera ends?

When is he coming?

He'll wait in the library.

The library? When?

Eleven o'clock.

Eleven o'clock!

Since writing that sonnet,
they seem doomed to be united.

Flamand will be a bit disappointed... find Olivier instead of me
waiting in the library.

And I? The opera's ending.

Shall I decide that?
Must I choose between them?

Do the poet's verses truly move me?

Or does music speak to me
with greater power?

"No other stirs such passion in me."

"No, fair one, no one on this earth."

"No other fills me with such longing."

"Not even Venus rivals you in this."

"Your eyes bespeak delight and woe."

"And if a glance may cause me pain..."

"...another will elicit joy again."

"They grant me life, or else death."

A hopeless task, keeping them apart.

The words and music are
now fused together.

They become something new.

The greatest enigma.

One art redeemed by the other.

"And if I live five hundred thousand years..."

" one but you may claim my heart."

"And since it is already overflowing..."

" room remains there for any other love."

Their love enfolds me,
woven of words and music.

How can I tear this fabric,
since I am part of it already?

Which do I choose?

That noble spirit with soulful eyes?

Or Olivier, that brilliant mind,
the passionate one?

Now, dearest Madeleine,
what says your heart?

Courted by both, you chose neither.

Being undecided pleased you more.

You tried to make a truce with love,
but now you are on fire.

And you cannot save yourself.

In choosing one... must lose the other.

Do we not always lose...

...whenever we win?

Can that be irony I see in your smile?

I insist on an answer.

Not your questioning gaze.

Ah, Madeleine!

Will you be consumed between two fires?

O mirrored face of Madeleine in love...

...can you advise me?

Can you help find the ending?

An ending for their opera?

Does one exist?

One that is not trivial?

My lady, supper is served.