Gian Francesco Malipiero's huge output includes some 35 operas, and it is in these his most original achievements are apparently to be found. In his stage works he sought to free opera from the verismo tradition, and among other things he eschewed traditional narrative continuity in favor of a panel structure where independently standing episodes serve as the basis. The Commedia dell'Arte work I Capricci di Callot, based on E.T.A. Hoffmann's Prinzessin Brambilla and modeled on etchings of Commedia dell'Arte characters by Callot, was composed in 1942, and if there are any political references, they are well-hidden behind the surreal, grotesque setting.
The plot itself is full of ambiguities and strange references involving several bizarre scenes and ubiquitous references to dreams and masks (I am not going to claim full grasp of all of it, especially the many details that seem to be subtle hints at something). The opera opens with a lengthy orchestral Introduzione launching an even longer orchestral Prologo, and there are long introductions to the acts and even between some of the scenes. But the music displays a high level of invention, lyrical, richly melodic and with several very fine arias. Often the music comes across as quite innocent and simple, but it is all very effective and even memorable.
The singers, rather unfamiliar to most listeners I'd guess, are good. Martina Winter as Giacinta is thoroughly impressive, but most of the supporting cast is splendid, especially the female parts. And the Kiel Philharmonic Orchestra - who has made several impressive opera and orchestral recordings for CPO - again shows themselves to be a very fine ensemble. They are conducted by Peter Marschik, who seems to have a deep understanding of the work and brings out colors and spirit and detail to impressive overall effect. This is a live recording, but you can barely hear that - in fact the sound quality is overall very good and well balanced. In short, this is a very fine recording that can be given a very safe recommendation for anyone even remotely interested in the music of the period.