Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


facebook-icon.png


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780393088953.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Performances

Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, Munich

Die Meistersinger at the theatre in which it was premiered, on Wagner’s birthday: an inviting prospect by any standards, still more so given the director, conductor, and cast, still more so given the opportunity to see three different productions within little more than a couple of months).

Janáček, The Makropulos Case, Bavarian State Opera

Opera houses’ neglect of Janáček remains one of the most baffling of the many baffling aspects of the ‘repertoire’. At least three of the composer’s operas would be perfect introductions to the art form: Jenůfa, Katya Kabanova, or The Cunning Little Vixen would surely hook most for life. From the House of the Dead might do likewise for someone of a rather different disposition, sceptical of opera’s claims and conventions.

Il barbiere di Siviglia at Glyndebourne

Director Annabel Arden believes that Rossini’s Il barbiere di Siviglia is ‘all about playfulness, theatricality, light and movement’. It’s certainly ‘about’ those things and they are, as Arden suggests, ‘based in the music’.

Oedipe at Covent Garden

George Enescu’s Oedipe was premiered in Paris 1936 but it has taken 80 years for the opera to reach the stage of Covent Garden. This production by Àlex Ollé (a member of the Catalan theatrical group, La Fura Dels Baus) and Valentina Carrasco, which arrives in London via La Monnaie where it was presented in 2011, was eagerly awaited and did not disappoint.

Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette at Lyric Opera, Chicago

Lyric Opera of Chicago staged Charles Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette as the last opera in its current subscription season.

L’incoronazione di Poppea, RAO

‘The plot is perhaps the least moral in all opera; wrong triumphs in the name of love and we are not expected to mind.’

Madame Butterfly , ENO

Anthony Minghella’s production of Madame Butterfly for ENO is wearing well. First seen in 2005, it is now being aired for the sixth time and is still, as I observed in 2013, ‘a breath-taking visual banquet’.

Valiant but tentative: La straniera at the Concertgebouw

This concert version of La straniera felt like a compulsory musicology field trip, but it had enough vocal flashes to lobby for more frequent performances of this midway Bellini.

London Festival of Baroque Music 2016: Words with Purcell

As poetry is the harmony of words, so music is that of notes; and as poetry is a rise above prose and oratory, so is music the exaltation of poetry.

The Dark Mirror: Zender’s Winterreise

From experiments with musique concrète in the 1940s, to the Minimalists’ explorations into tape-loop effects in the 1960s, via the appearance of hip-hop in the 1970s and its subsequent influence on electronic dance music in the 1980s, to digital production methods today, ‘sampling’ techniques have been employed by musicians working in genres as diverse as jazz fusion, psychedelic rock and classical music.

Great Scott Wows San Diego

On May 7, 2016, San Diego Opera presented the West Coast premiere of Great Scott, an opera by Terrence McNally and Jake Heggie. McNally’s original libretto pokes fun at everything from football to bel canto period opera. It includes snippets of nineteenth century tunes as well as Heggie's own bel canto writing.

Bellini’s Adelson e Salvini, London

A foiled abduction, a castle-threatening inferno, romantic infatuation, guilt-laden near-suicide, gun-shots and knife-blows: Andrea Leone Tottola’s libretto for Vincenzo Bellini’s first opera, Adelson e Salvini, certainly does not lack dramatic incident.

Manitoba Opera: Of Mice and Men

Opera as an art form has never shied away from the grittier shadows of life. Nor has Manitoba Opera, with its recent past productions dealing with torture, incest, murder and desperate political prisoners still so tragically relevant today.

The Rose and the Ring

Published in 1855 as an entertainment for his two daughters, William Makepeace Thackeray’s The Rose and the Ring is a burlesque fairy-tale whose plot — to the author’s wilful delight, perhaps — defies summation and elucidation.

The Lighthouse at San Francisco’s Opera Parallèle

What more fitting memorial for composer Peter Maxwell Davies (d. 03/14/2016) than a splendid performance of The Lighthouse, the third of his eight works for the stage.

King’s Consort at Wigmore Hall

I suspect that many of those at the Wigmore Hall for The King’s Consort’s performance of the La Senna festeggiante (The Rejoicing Seine) were lured by the cachet of ‘Antonio Vivaldi’ and further enticed by the notion of a lover’s serenade at which the generic term ‘serenata’ seems to hint.

Kathleen Ferrier Awards 2016

Having enjoyed superb singing by a young cast of soloists in Classical Opera’s UK premiere of Jommelli’s Il Vogoleso the previous evening, I was delighted that the 2016 Kathleen Ferrier Awards Final at the Wigmore Hall confirmed the strength and depth of talent possessed by the young singers studying in and emerging from our academies and conservatoires.

Pacific Opera Project Recreates Mozart and Salieri Contest

On February 7, 1786, Emperor Joseph II of Austria had brand new one-act operas by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Antonio Salieri performed in the Schönbrunn Palace’s Orangery.

Powerful chemistry in La Cenerentola in Cologne

Those poor opera lovers in Cologne have a never ending problem with the city’s opera house. Together with the rest of city, the construction of the new opera house is mired in political incompetence.

Tannhäuser: Royal Opera House, London

London remains starved of Wagner. This season, its major companies offer but two works, Tannhäuser from the Royal Opera and Tristan from ENO.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Nadja Michael (Salome) [Photo by Clive Barda courtesy of the Royal Opera House]
25 Feb 2008

Salome at Covent Garden

The Royal Opera's new Salome is set roughly in the 1930s, in surroundings which refer overtly to Pasolini's Salò or the 120 Days of Sodom, populated by uniformed soldiers and naked whores.

Richard Strauss: Salome
Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, February 21, 2008

Above: Nadja Michael (Salome)
All photos by Clive Barda courtesy of the Royal Opera House

 

Its main set is a pale, dank, tiled basement – the excesses of the banquet in the palace above are glimpsed on an upper level which sits just below the proscenium arch. The 'below stairs' angle may be one of director David McVicar's trademark devices, but here it is evocative of a sewer, an underworld, a space suspended between this world and Hell. Designer Es Devlin has exercised faultless attention to detail in bringing this concept to life.

The people who inhabit this place are as devoid of human emotion as the animal carcasses we see hanging in one of the basement's doorways. Following Narraboth's suicide, the others make a point of picking their way around his fresh corpse as if to demonstrate just how little his death matters to them.

Nadja Michael's Salome is credibly young and nubile, slinky, poised, if not really sexy. She produces a huge sound considering her physical build, and it gleams on top when it is in tune, though she does have a few intonation problems. Her fixation with Jokanaan is quite understandable, as Michael Volle dominates the stage in both voice and presence even when he cannot be seen.

The Dance of the Seven Veils is not done as a conventional striptease but as a dream interlude after the modern fashion. It is a subtly disturbing fantasy sequence, where the tiled walls give way to black depths with cinematic projections which suggest Herod's sexual obsession with Salome from early childhood. This unspoken suggestion of Salome's lifetime of rape by her stepfather makes sense of her scheme to destroy both Jokanaan and Herod himself. At the end of the dance, Salome leads Herod off for one final tryst – this time on her terms – before making her fatal demand.

Robin Leggate was a late substitute as Herod. If he lacked the physical presence and vocal weight of Thomas Moser, who he replaced, he certainly found an element of black comedy in his petty, bickering interchanges with Daniela Schuster's Herodias.

Against the murky grey-white background, there is an emphasis on the luridness of Herod's court – represented by Herodias in her glittering turquoise gown – and of Jokanaan's murder, when the naked executioner emerges from the cistern dripping with the prophet's blood. However, Salome herself is a pale sylph in a glistening white dress, and Herod's fantasies of her during the Dance of the Seven Veils have a crisp monochrome purity. From Herod's perspective, her horrific request for Jokanaan's head comes as a complete surprise from someone he sees as a perfect specimen, an alabaster ornament.

Salome_006.png(left to right) Michael Volle (Jokanaan), Joseph Kaiser (Narraboth) and Nadja Michael (Salome)

And as this beautiful creature's white slip and limbs become drenched in Jokanaan's blood, the assembled court – at first averting their eyes in revulsion – gradually turn towards her and become transfixed on the spectacle, just as Herod's and Narraboth's eyes had always been inexorably drawn in her direction.

Orchestrally, the standards were generally high; Philippe Jordan certainly has an understanding of how to bring out the horror in Strauss's opulent score, though some untidy brass playing took the shine off the texture.

Ruth Elleson © 2008

Send to a friend

Send a link to this article to a friend with an optional message.

Friend's Email Address: (required)

Your Email Address: (required)

Message (optional):