Mixed views on this Royal Opera House production of one of Strauss' masterpieces
Like with Wagner's music, Strauss' music I always have appreciated and this has since turned to love. Salome is one of Strauss' finest works alongside Der Rosenkavalier(my favourite), Elektra and Ariadne Auf Naxos. Sadly, this Royal Opera House production is not one of my favourite performances of such a great work, in fact it is my least favourite with the Stratas film and the 1990 Deutsch Oper performances being my favourites.
Of course it has its redeeming values. The sets and lighting while stark in a way are still effective and fitting with the opera's mood. The orchestra perform the difficult score with much power and intensity and Phillippe Jordan's conducting is enigmatic with well-judged tempos. The drama was mostly compelling if quite shocking at times(while some may disagree the bit(s) with the executioner was quite fitting without McVicar's concept), but Dance of the Seven Veils I have to say really stood out, as it should be it was both erotic and disturbing. The most consistent of the principals was by far Michael Volle as Jokhanaan, a thrillingly sung and very commanding performance indeed especially in his chilling long scene with Salome. While I feel his voice is more suited to Flamand from Capriccio, Joseph Kaiser nonetheless brings a lot of authority and poignant anguish to the role of Naraboth.
For me though, Nadja Michael was disappointing. It is not as if I dislike Michael, I thought her Eboli in the otherwise terrible 2005 Don Carlos was excellent and I was surprised by her Tosca. I will get the positives out of the way of her performance. Physically she is perfect for the role. And dramatically she brings out the lust and girlish naivety of Salome. Sadly though her singing is not in great shape. Whether it was an off night or a consequence of taking on too many heavy roles too early, her singing is very harsh and of a shrill quality. I wouldn't have minded those much, as Salome is possibly third to Elektra and Dyer's Wife(Die Frau Ohne Schatten) as Strauss' most difficult soprano role, if it was in tune but I did find Michael's singing in big moments especially almost a semitone flat, which for my ears is unpleasant.
Thomas Moser is a suitably lecherous Herod, and his Carmen Miranda-like dancing when he asks Salome to dance, as well as his stylish dancing with Michael with no sense of awkwardness for a man as tall as he is, only adds to that. I personally don't like his voice here however, often finding it underpowered and strained. Michaela Schuster sings well but looks ill at ease, so I didn't feel enough of Herodias' iciness and decadence like I did for example with Varnay and Rysanek. The drama worked mostly fine for me, but I did find what was done with Jokhanaan's head rather silly for my tastes rather than horrifying.
Overall, not terrible but could have been much better for me. 6/10 Bethany Cox
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