|Index||3 reviews in total|
Strauss' Salome (1997): Starring Catherine Malfitano, Bryn Terfel, Anja
Silja, Kenneth Reigle, Robert Gambill, Peter Bonder, Graeme Broadbent,
Michael Druiet, Rupert Oliver Forbes, Andrea Hazell Film Director Hans
Hulscher, Opera Director Luc Bondy, Conductor Christoph Von Dohnayi
Royal Opera Covent Garden Orchestra.
Directors Hans Huschler and Luc Bondy attempt to turn up the heat in this classic shock opera by Richard Strauss based on the Biblical story of the princess Salome and the beheading of John the Baptist. Nevertheless, this production does'nt entirely satisfy me. The singing is superb, so let's talk about that first. New York-born soprano Catherine Malfitano sings the role with virtuosic power and her physicality is exactly what is needed for the role. She meets the demands of the fiendishly difficult music and is svelte and young enough for the part of the young and wild daughter of Herod. Veteran dramatic soprano Anja Silja, acclaimed for her Wagner roles, is an icy, strong and leonine Herodias. But tenor Kenneth Reigle is possibly miscast as Herod. If you've seen the 1979 Joseph Losey film of Mozart's Don Giovanni, you would have seen Reigle as Don Ottavio. While he is perfectly comfortable singing lyric parts, this role is too taxing for him and instead of sounding powerful and king-like, he sounds underpowered and downright silly. His voice nearly cracks under pressure and appears to be falsetto in various points. The Jochanaan of Welsh baritone star Bryn Terfel is remarkably good. Damn good. He encompasses the fiery prophet spirit of the character, with perhaps just the slightest bit of sex appeal (after all Salome was attracted to him, and we must see why). Although the singing is first-rate thanks to Malfitano, Terfel and Silja, I'm afraid I can't compliment the production itself. It doesn't seem to make up its mind as to what it is. It's not Art Neauveau, the art style that was prevalent in Oscar Wilde's time of the original play, nor is it accurately depicting the Biblical time of the story. The costumes are odd and out-of-synch with the story. Salome looks like she just came out of a Beverly Hills clothing store circa 1985. Anja Silja appears to be wearing something Edwardian and the set is minimalist and avant-garde, meaning there's a lot of darkness and low lighting. If you like that sort of stuff, then you won't mind this performance. But I can only give it 8 points out of 10.
I love and admire the music of Richard Strauss, and Salome is no
exception. As far as Strauss operas go I slightly prefer Der
Rosenkavalier and Elektra, but Salome is very compelling with some of
Strauss' most inspired passages, particularly Dance of the Seven Veils.
This 1997 Salome is definitely worthwhile, though I found myself more receptive to the 1975 film and 1990 Deutsch Oper production, but feel it's on the same level of the 1992 performance with Maria Ewing. The sets are suitably minimalist, an effect I found effective, with a touch of avant garde, and the lighting is dark without being too dim you can't see anything. The costumes are not bad as such, but don't entirely fit with the setting and story, especially Salome's.
Salome's(1997) choreography is also good, Dance of the Seven Veils is wonderfully erotic. The staging is fine as well, with no major distractions from the libretto, surprising considering it is the same Luc Bondy who was responsible for the pretty dreadful Met production of Tosca. I just loved the emphasis on the sexuality too, it is shown as very masochistic and destructive, which I did find fitting.
Anyway, the video directing is skillful, not too many close-ups or camera work that is so far away there is a lack of intimacy. The picture quality is generally crisp, and the sound is good mostly apart from the odd muffled or static moment.
Musically, it is excellent a vast majority of the time. Only the first 30 minutes disappoints, the orchestra is on the bland side which is the complete opposite considering some of the music at this point is very powerful. Dohnanyi's conducting is authoritative and musical.
The singing and acting are superb. I do agree to some extent about Kenneth Riegel. Now there are moments where some solid singing technique is shown and he is suitably arrogant. Against all this, I think Riegel is more a lyric tenor, Herod is the complete opposite of that, and due to some of the strain and cracks emerging at times I worry that the role was too heavy for Riegel's voice.
On the other hand, Anja Silja is appropriately icy as Herodias, the role is almost up to Klytemnestra's(Elektra) level on the odious scale, and not only is Silja a great singer she is a riveting actress. Catherine Malfitano is exceptional as Salome, the last twenty minutes is so evocative and tense, and Malfitano meets this perfectly. Maybe at the start she lacks the girlish quality of Salome, that said she is very convincing and merciless as an actress and the singing shows heft and vocal colour.
Which leads me to Bryn Terfel. As Jokanaan, I have seen Bernd Weikl and Simon Estes and heard Sherrill Milnes opposite Caballe(late 60s I believe). All three are excellent, however I personally find Terfel the most compelling. Vocally he shows charisma, is very musically committed and a lot of beauty and power in his voice, and dramatically he is incredibly compelling, devout, agonised and very determined.
In conclusion, definitely worth the look. 8/10 Bethany Cox
A big hit for the Royal Opera Covent Garden and a benchmark performance
for rising (as opposed to risen) star Bryn Terfel. The video is of live
performances: live is the manner in which all concerned approached this
screeching, preening thunderbolt of musico-dramatic firepower.
Catherine Malfitano almost overdoes it, playing Salome as if possessed form the outset (social services would be presented with a no-brainer regarding the fitness of her parents). Where Malfitano plays Salome right on the edge, so Terfel gives us a John the Baptist not of defiance and resolve but of bellowing, pentecostal fire. From the first time they appear onstage together, tragedy is inevitable.
Luckily some gripping cameos (the other parts are basically cameos, even the substantial character of Ken Riegel's Herod) and meticulous pacing amongst the roaring power from the pit keep a sense of direction and growth throughout the piece. Hulscher's video manages to match the hiatus both on and below stage in its recording. Do not eat directly before viewing. 6/10
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