Richard Hageman: Caponsacchi Synopsis

Richard Hageman: Biography
Richard Hageman: Caponsacchi
Richard Hageman: Caponsacchi Synopsis
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Composer: Richard Hageman
Libretto: Arthur Goodrich

The Metropolitan Opera House New York
United States Premiere

Caponsacchi...... Mario Chamlee
Pompilia......... Helen Jepson
Guido............ Lawrence Tibbett
Innocent XII..... Norman Cordon
Violante......... Doris DoeConti............ Wilfred Engelman
Governor......... Norman Cordon
Archbishop....... James Wolfe
Pietro........... John Gurney

Messenger........ Giordano Paltrinieri
Gherardi......... George Rasely
Margherita....... Anna Kaskas
Tommati.......... Louis D'Angelo
Venturini........ George Cehanovsky
Scalchi.......... Giordano Paltrinieri
Montini.......... James Wolfe
Giotto........... John Gurney
Melchior......... Max Altglass
Andrea........... Arnold Gabor
Innkeeper........ Louis D'Angelo
Servant.......... Giordano Paltrinieri
Guard............ George Cehanovsky
Marinetta........ Lucielle Browning

Act I Ballet arranged by George Balanchine
a) Tarantella: Kira Blanck, Rabana Hasburgh, Joseph Levinoff, American Ballet Ensemble
b) Adagio: Elise Reiman, Charles Laskey, Heidi Vosseler, American Ballet Ensemble
c) Valse: Leda Anchutina, William Dollar, Kathryn Mullowny, Daphne Vane, Lew Christensen, Douglas Coudy, American Ballet Ensemble

Conductor...............Richard Hageman
Director................Désiré Defrère
Choreographer...........George Balanchine

Opera by Richard Hageman after Arthur Goodrich's and Roze Palmer's play, based on 'The ring and the book' by Robert Browning; the subject  is a historical lwsuit that took place at the end of the 17th Century in Italy. The names of the four main chaacters are the same as the historical ones. Pope Innocentius XII was 86 years old when he invented in the ruling of the court.

Text: Alexander Jansen/RS
All photos: © 2013 Metropolitan Opera Archives

Download 401Concerts 3 with Caponsacchi

401COnc3Logo150The recording of our third 401DutchOperas concert in the Kröller-Müller Museum is downloadable via 401Concerts 3. Apart from highlights of Richard Hageman's Caponsacchi it also includes highlights from Cornelis Dopper's De blinde van Casteel Cuillé,Willem Landré's De roos van Dekama, Daniël de Lange's Lioba, Gerard von Brucken Fock's Jozal, Julius Röntgen's Agnete and De lachende Cavalier, Jan van Gilse's Helga von Stavern and Jan Brandts Buys’ De kleermakers van Marken (Die Schneider von Schönau).

Download historic recordings fromCaponsacchi via Richard Hageman in Opera Film & Song.



Richard Hageman: Caponsacchi 'Overture'
San Franscisco Symphony Orchestra, Richard Hageman (conductor), September 24, 1940
MP3 Download DO201301

One afternoon in the month of February 1698 the case of Count Guido Franceschini against the priest Guiseppe Caponsacchi rules at the papal court. The prologue is set in a hall of the Vatican where three Papal courts of last instance will judge about this very complicated murder case, in which Caponsacchi is banned for 8 months.

The noisiest part of the Roman populace cries out for the release of Guido and the death of Caponsacchi. The captain of the guard, Montini, greets the pope Innocent XII. The pope wants to listen unobserved to the proceedings in court, and hides behind a curtain in the next room.


The suspects are arraigned. Caponsacchi is summoned to tell his story, but he refuses to add to all what he has said previously, as recorded in the files.

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Count Guido, in turn, does not deny that he has slain his young wife, Pompilia, and her parents, Pietro and Violante - but what else could he do? His wife was adulterous with the priest Caponsacchi, and when her parents went after him Guido only defended himself. Caponsacchi protests, he will give his views on what happened. (This is shown in the next three acts. The epilogue takes place again in the papal court.)


It is the beginning of March 1697. Arezzo celebrates carneval (for the 'Carneval music' see MP3 Download DO201301). A messenger announces the arrival of two foreign guests (these are Caponsacchi and his friend Conti, disguised as fortune tellers). Guido and the governor, both masked, arrive. They discuss a large loan of money that Guido refuses to give back to his parents in law. If they were to die, all their fortune would be his, and for sure Guido would see to it that the governor would also benefit from it. The governor urges Guido to have patience, his wife Pompilia is young and beautiful, why not enjoy her youth for a while? But Guido himself is not so young anymore, he wants to live from her money and the harmless, tasteless beauty of his wife insults him. Pietro and Violante, Pompilia's parents, arrive. The governor hastily puts his mask back on. Guido welcomes their imminent leaving to Rome, but erupts in anger when they ask him once again for the return of their money. Violante replies that he is sending them back to Rome as beggars.

The crowd asks space for the fortune tellers. Caponsacchi sings a happy song, with a serious undertone: 'We are only puppets in a play' (A fragment of which you can see in the video trailer provided above). Entry Pietro and Violante. They ask the fortune teller where they can find the governor, to intermediate in their case. The fortune teller (Caponsacchi), replies that the governor and the law are never found together. Pietro tells him about the marriage of their daughter with Guido and the money issue. Caponsacchi throws his purse to Violante, which inspires the crowd to give them money too. 'I'll pay you back,' exclaims Pietro. 'Send it to Caponsacchi, for the poor of Arezzo, he replies. Just at that moment the Archbishop appears. He and several others are looking for 'Caponsacchi,' with respect to a promotion, but the priest is nowhere to be found. The 'fortune teller' prophesizes where Caponsacci will reappear, and runs of to be there at the prophesized time. Gherardi then recognizes Caponsacchi, and when the latter asks him if the story of the loan is true, Gherardi replies that it is indeed true.

Pietro and Violante reappear. They are scared, chased as they are by a man in a black cloak. Caponsacchi asks his friend Gherardi to see to it that they are transported to ROme safely. As it turns out, Guido is after hs parents in law. Caponsacchi and Conti block his way - the first confrontation. Gherardi reports the safe passage of the couple, while Guido recognizes his cousin Conti, and Caponsacchi.


Gherardi names Guido the most dangerous opponent in Arezzo. Caponsacchi feels intense sympathy with his young wife. The two priests  go their separate ways. Evidenced by an interview with Guido's maid (and lover) Margherita, tells him that Pompilia has escaped. Guido is afraid that she is gone, and sends Margherita out to find her. Guido begins his own quest, in which the governor promised his help.

Afraid, Pompilia seeks help from the Archbishop, saying that her marriage with Guido is not a real marriage, so she is living in sin. She wants to be housed in a monastery, but the Archbishop shows little character and redirects her problem to the governor… who just shows up! The governor asks her to return in ten minutes, which he uses to inform Guido of Pompilia's whereabouts Guido now openly fantasizes about Pompilia's death: if she had a lover, he might kill her legally.

Conti and Caponsacchi muse about the future. Pompilia appears. Caponsacchi is very impressed by her (arioso 'Like a painting of Raphael'). Before Pompilia can ask for Caponsacchi's help, Guido appears. He drags her home. Caponsacchi decides to help her.


Six weeks have passed. The governor and Guido have invaded Caponsacchi's cell. From the neighboring parish sounds the song of the clergy. Guido puts a letter falsified loveletter of Caponsacchi to Pompilia in the Bible that lies on the table. Pompilia 's servant (and Guido's sweetheart !) Margherita was used as his messenger in delivering a whole series of such falsified letters to Pompilia, which Guido then used to complain to the Archbishop about his wife’s ‘infidelity.’ The singing in the church ceases. Both intruders quickly retreat.


Conti and Caponsacchi enter the cell. Conti is concerned about his friend, who lately so quiet and withdrawn. Caponsacchi expresses his worries about Pompilia’s safety.  ‘You're in love,’ says Conti. But Caponsacchi replies that his feelings do not go beyond friedship. Footsteps in the hall announce the arrival of the archbishop and the governor. The Archbishop informs Caponsacchi of Guido’s complaint, and summons him to stay in his cell until further notice. He is presented with the falsified letters and tells Conti that he suspects Guido to be the author. Just as he would like to receive a sign from heaven, someone knocks on the door. Caponsacchi knows exactly who is coming: Margherita, with yet another letter plus a flower from ‘her’ bosom, a ring from ‘her’ finger, a lock of ‘her’ hair. ‘Stolen,’ says Caponsacchi, who refuses to go to Pompilia. Instead he plans to leave for Rome, since he realizes that there is real danger in the situation.

Gherardi arrives with bad news . He had to bring a message from the governor to Guido, who was not there. Suddenly appeared Pompilia, crying: ‘Help me, send a letter to my parents in Rome, saying: ‘Come and save me , or I die.’’ But Gherardi didn’t do what she had asked, since he, like everyne else, was afraid of Guido. When the count came home, she disappeared. Caponsacchi's comment ‘I was hoping for a sign… I shall go to Guido's palace and finish this tonight...’


In front of his house, Guido informs the Governor of the latest ‘developments.’ Pompilia and Caponsacchi are now where he wants them to be, trapped in his machinations. Margherita arrives telling him that  Caponsacchi knows his intentions. Guido is furious and slams Margherita to the ground. The governor quickly leads him inside.

Caponsacchi, Conti and Gherardi arrive. They find Margherita. She wants to escape but Caponsacchi gets a hold of her. Gherardi leads her away, to prevent her from alarming Guido.

Pompilia appears on her balcony. Caponsacchi tells his life story to Pompilia. He is a nobleman of origin, a warrior. Now he has a higher purpose. Pompilia asks for his help. That she herself is in danger is of minor importance, but she is pregnant, and wants to save her child.

Richard Hageman: Caponsacchi 'I know you better... This very vivid morn'
Helen Jepson (Pompilia), Richard Hageman (conductor), January/February 1937
MP3 Download DO201301

Caponsacchi agrees to help her escape that very night (A fragment of this long and beautiful duet which you can see in the video trailer of 401Concerts 3 at the introduction of the synopsis).



Two days later, Caponsacchi and Pompilia reach a tavern at Castelnuvo, near Rome, where they believe themselves in safety. They are mistaken. Guido managed to arrive to that last station before Rome before them. He has bribed the innkeeper to tell the refugees that there’s only one room left, which they will have to share. That will provide Guido with the perfect alibi for his plan. Marinetta, a young mother with her child in her arms, is stationed outside the inn, on the couch. The boy is sent to welcome Caponsacchi and Pompilia, while Guido and his men are hidden in the background.

When Caponsacchi and Pompilia arrive, Caponsacchi wants to continue straight to Rome, so as not to waste time. When Pompilia faints, the innkeeper insists that they stay for the night. Caponsacchi carries the weakened Pompilia to her room, the innkeeper signals Guido that he can activate his plan. Before the assasins can enter, they are surprised by Caponsacchi who is coming out of the room. They fight, but when Caponsacchi threatens to overpower Guido, the latter's men intervene. Surprisingly, the people turn against Guido and the guards that are to take Caponsacci to prison, side with the people, and take the ‘couple’ to Rome instead.


It's Christmas Eve, 1697. Pompilia stands with her mother Violante in the living room of her home. She sews clothes for her baby, a boy who is in the care of nuns. She sings him an imaginary lullaby, 'Who are you... I'll wake him not' (for the recording see MP3 Download DO201301). Violante wants her daughter to forget Caponsacchi, but Pompilia can only remember him with admiration. She regrets that he has been banned for eight months. Conti arrives to announce the arrival of Caponsacchi, whose ban is now finished.  Pietro sees that his daughter looks much brighter, now that she heard the news. Violante isn’t to keen on her daughter seeing Caponsacchi again, but Pompilia is excited. In the distance church bells sound.

There is another knock on the door. A voice claims to be Caponsacchi. ‘Don’t open,’ says Pompilia, ‘it’s not his voice.’ But her father lets Violante open the door, since it is Christmas and you don’t refuse to open the door on that day. Guido rushes in with four mercenaries. Pietro, Violante and Pompilia are grasped. Guido first concern is the child, who is heir to the fortune of Pompilia’s parents, but they refuse to say where he is. To break her will Guido has Pompilia’s mother killed, but Pompilia remains silent. Then he kills Pietro, asking if she has a last wish before she herself will die. ‘To see Caponacchi,’ replies a defiant Pompilia. Guido is furious but when he wants to kill her, he is blinded by a great light that renders his hand powerless. At his command, his mercenaries finish the job of stabbing her to death.

A knock on the door does numbs all. It is Caponsacchi. Guido cannot believe his luck. He orders to capture the priest, but the henchmen can’t find him. When Guido tries to flee, Caponsacchi stops him. Guido is only saved from death by the arrival of Conti with the guard. Pompilia recognizes Caponsacchi, before she dies in his arms.


Caponsacchi speaks his last words to the court, bribed by Guido. When Judge Tommati asks for his comments, Caponsacchi replies:  ‘All lies.’ Tomatti points out that Caponsacchi has no witnesses to testify on his behalf. Caponsacchi recalls that his witness Conti died three days before, poisoned – which also can’t be proven, says the judge. Caponsacchi mocks the judges for cowards. Then the curtains of the side chamber opens. To everyone's surprise the Pope appears, overruling the decision of the Court. He declares Guido and his accomplices guilty. Only now Guido repents. He confesses and begs the pope for forgiveness, but is sentenced to death, effective the next morning. Finally, the Pope declares the dead Pompilia innocent, and he names Caponsacchi an example to all for doing the righteous thing, even if his own life was at stake in the process.

(Summary by Alexander Jansen, March 21, 1992.)

Download 401Concerts 3 with Caponsacchi

401COnc3Logo150The recording of our third 401DutchOperas concert in the Kröller-Müller Museum is downloadable via 401Concerts 3. Apart from highlights of Richard Hageman's Caponsacchi it also includes highlights from Cornelis Dopper's De blinde van Casteel Cuillé,Willem Landré's De roos van Dekama, Daniël de Lange's Lioba, Gerard von Brucken Fock's Jozal, Julius Röntgen's Agnete and De lachende Cavalier, Jan van Gilse's Helga von Stavern and Jan Brandts Buys’ De kleermakers van Marken (Die Schneider von Schönau).

Download historic recordings fromCaponsacchi via Richard Hageman in Opera Film & Song.

Tickets for 401Concerts 3 in the Kröller-Müller Museum

Through the website of the Kröller-Müller Museum tickets for the May 29 2016 concert are available through The concert is part of a special presentation. The price includes catering and a meet & greet with the artists. By attending you support the project of salvaging Dutch operatic history by means of a series of unique live recordings of its highlights. By nature our concerts are singular events, each time with entirely new repertoire, which has to be constructed for handwritten manuscript scores. Ths makes these concerts far more expensive to organize than average concerts that can be taken on tour.