New Production Theater an der Wien
An anecdote concerning a misdirected letter that allegedly caused his wife Pauline a fit of jealousy, and may even have made her consider divorce, was the inspiration for Richard Strauss’ eighth opera Intermezzo, for which he also wrote the libretto at the behest of Hermann Bahr. Strauss said of this subliminal public portrayal of his own life: “As harmless and trivial as the events in this work are, the feelings they cause remain the most distressing emotional conflicts that can afflict the human heart.”
The conductor Storch has to go to Vienna on business. At his home on the Grundlsee, an unexpected letter arrives from the capital that deeply distresses his wife Christine: “My darling,” it runs, “please send me two tickets for the opera again, and afterwards we’ll meet in the bar as always. Love, Mitzi Meier.” In a fit of anger she immediately hurries to her solicitor to file for divorce. She sends a telegram to her husband with the unequivocal message, “We are divorced forever”. When Storch reads this, he leaves his game of cards filled with consternation and wanders around the Prater in a daze. But the fateful letter has been sent to the wrong address, and was intended for the conductor Stroh. Mitzi Meier has mixed the names up. All is well again with the Storch family.
With its mixture of conversational tone, arioso sections, spoken dialogues and symphonic interludes Intermezzo is not a completely serious portrayal of scenes of married life; instead, Strauss presents the emotional upheavals in a rapid succession of scenes interwoven with a large number of ironic, if not to say satirical, references to the Marschallin from the Rosenkavalier and to Ariadne auf Naxos.