I love Salome, and while I admit it took some time for me to appreciate his music I love Strauss. While I personally prefer the 1975 film with Stratas, Weikl, Varnay and Beier with Bohm conducting and the 1990 performance with Malfitano and Estes, this Salome is marvellous.
My only real complaint really is the muddied sound quality, which makes the singing sound a little too soft at times. That said, the picture quality apart from the odd shoddy moment is good, and the camera angles are interesting and don't elude the performers in any way.
In terms of costume and set design, this is not as sumptuous as the 1975 film but it with nods to Klimt and Beardsley has a very haunting quality to it without making it too humourless with the use of the creepy-looking moon and the dungeon-like set.
On a musical front, this Salome works very well. The conducting is nuanced and assured, and the orchestra play powerfully with moments of beauty too. Dance of the Seven Veils is wonderfully erotic and twisted. Maybe the louder, more forceful moments could've done with more attack, but they were dramatic and compelling enough, never too tame or too manic. The waltz-like sections fare better stylistically.
The singing is also great. Michael Devlin with pale blue make-up and waist-length hair is startling in image, rich in voice and commanding in stage presence. I have remarked more than once that Herodias is almost on Klytemnestra's(Elektra) level on the odious scale and Gillian Knight is appropriately icy.
Kenneth Riegel is much better here than he was in the 1997 performance, where my feelings on his performance were mixed. Here his tenor voice is much less strained and while I still consider him lyric tenor than dramatic tenor he handles the vocal and dramatic side of the role of Herod very well.
It is Maria Ewing however that makes the production as well worth watching as it is. I have always liked Ewing, particularly as Carmen and Cherubino. Salome is a very demanding role and a completely different kettle of fish than these two roles and possibly anything else Ewing has done. This said, she is simply stellar, dramatically she starts off with a girlish quality which was among the most believable of any other Salome but then she is frightening especially in the last half-hour or so, when she is awaiting Jochanaan's severed head and when she cavorts it. Her singing is both powerful and ethereal with no signs of harshness.
All in all, marvellous. 9/10 Bethany Cox
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