Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


facebook-icon.png


twitter_logo[1].gif



Plumbago_9780993198359_1.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Recordings

Richard Danielpour – The Passion of Yeshua

A contemporary telling of the Passion story which uses texts from both the Christian and the Jewish traditions to create a very different viewpoint.

Les Talens Lyriques: 18th-century Neapolitan sacred works

In 1770, during an extended tour of France and Italy to observe the ‘present state of music’ in those two countries, the English historian, critic and composer Charles Burney spent a month in Naples - a city which he noted (in The Present State of Music in France and Italy (1771)) ‘has so long been regarded as the centre of harmony, and the fountain from whence genius, taste, and learning, have flowed to every other part of Europe.’

Herbert Howells: Missa Sabrinensis revealed in its true glory

At last, Herbert Howells’s Missa Sabrinensis (1954) with David Hill conducting the Bach Choir, with whom David Willcocks performed the piece at the Royal Festival Hall in 1982. Willcocks commissioned this Mass for the Three Choirs Festival in Worcester in 1954, when Howells himself conducted the premiere.

Le Banquet Céleste: Stradella's San Giovanni Battista

The life of Alessandro Stradella was characterised by turbulence, adventure and amorous escapades worthy of an opera libretto. Indeed, at least seven composers have turned episodes from the 17th-century Italian composer’s colourful life into operatic form, the best known being Flotow whose three-act comic opera based on the Lothario’s misadventures was first staged in Hamburg in 1844.

Ethel Smyth: Songs and Ballads - a new recording from SOMM

In 1877, Ethel Smyth, aged just nineteen, travelled to Leipzig to begin her studies at the German town’s Music Conservatory, having finally worn down the resistance of her father, General J.H. Smyth.

Wagner: Excerpts from Der Ring des Niebelungen, NHK Symphony Orchestra, Paavo Järvi, RCA-Sony

This new recording of excerpts from Wagner’s Der Ring des Niebelungen is quite exceptional - and very unusual for this kind of disc. The words might be missing, but the fact they are proves to have rather the opposite effect. It is one of the most operatic of orchestral Wagner discs I have come across.

Wagner: Die Walküre, Symphonieorchester Des Bayerischen Rundfunks, Simon Rattle, BR Klassik

Simon Rattle has never particularly struck me as a complex conductor. He is not, for example, like Furtwängler, Maderna, Boulez or Sinopoli - all of whom brought a breadth of learning and a knowledge of composition to bear on what they conducted.

Dvořák Requiem, Jakub Hrůša in memoriam Jiří Bělohlávek

Antonín Dvořák Requiem op.89 (1890) with Jakub Hrůša conducting the Prague Philharmonic Orchestra. The Requiem was one of the last concerts Jiří Bělohlávek conducted before his death and he had been planning to record it as part of his outstanding series for Decca.

Schumann Symphonies, influenced by song

John Eliot Gardiner's Schumann series with the London Symphony Orchestra, demonstrate the how Schumann’s Lieder and piano music influenced his approach to symphonic form and his interests in music drama.

Unusual and beautiful: Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla conducts the music of Raminta Šerkšnytė

Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla conducts the music of Raminta Šerkšnytė with the Kremerata Baltica, in this new release from Deutsche Grammophon.

Diana Damrau sings Richard Strauss’s Vier letzte Lieder on Erato

“How weary we are of wandering/Is this perhaps death?” These closing words of ‘Im Abendrot’, the last of Richard Strauss’s Vier letzte Lieder, and the composer’s own valedictory work, now seem unusually poignant since they stand as an epitaph to Mariss Jansons’s final Strauss recording.

Vaughan Williams Symphonies 3 & 4 from Hyperion

Latest in the highly acclaimed Hyperion series of Ralph Vaughan Williams symphonies, Symphonies no 3 and 4, with Martyn Brabbins and the BBC Symphony Orchestra, recorded in late 2018 after a series of live performances.

Bach’s Christmas Oratorio with the Thomanerchor and Gewandhausorchester Leipzig

This Accentus release of J.S. Bach’s Christmas Oratorio, recorded live on 15/16th December 2018 at St. Thomas’s Church Leipzig, takes the listener ‘back to Bach’, so to speak.

Retrospect Opera's new recording of Ethel Smyth's Fête Galante

Writing in April 1923 in The Bookman, of which he was editor, about Ethel Smyth’s The Boatswain’s Mate (1913-14) - the most frequently performed of the composer’s own operas during her lifetime - Rodney Bennett reflected on the principal reasons for the general neglect of Smyth’s music in her native land.

A compelling new recording of Bruckner's early Requiem

The death of his friend and mentor Franz Seiler, notary at the St Florian monastery to which he had returned as a teaching assistant in 1845, was the immediate circumstance which led the 24-year-old Anton Bruckner to compose his first large-scale sacred work: the Requiem in D minor for soloists, choir, organ continuo and orchestra, which he completed on 14th March 1849.

Emmerich Kálmán: Ein Herbstmanöver

Brilliant Emmerich Kálmán’s Ein Herbstmanöver from the Stadttheater, Giessen in 2018, conducted by Michael Hofstetter now on Oehms Classics, in a performing version by Balázs Kovalik.

Liszt Petrarca Sonnets complete – Andrè Schuen, Daniel Heide

An ambitious new series focusing on the songs of Franz Liszt, starting with all three versions of the Tre Sonetti del Petrarca, (Petrarca Sonnets), S.270a, S.270b and S.161 with Andrè Schuen and Daniel Heide for Avi-music.de.

Une soirée chez Berlioz – lyrical rarities, on Berlioz’s own guitar

Une soirée chez Berlioz – an evening with Berlioz, songs for voice, piano and guitar, with Stéphanie D’Oustrac, Thibaut Roussel (guitar), and Tanguy de Williencourt (piano).

A Baroque Christmas from Harmonia Mundi

A baroque Christmas from Harmonia Mundi, this year’s offering in their acclaimed Christmas series. Great value for money - four CDs of music so good that it shouldn’t be saved just for Christmas. The prize here, though is the Pastorale de Noël by Marc-Antoine Charpentier with Ensemble Correspondances, with Sébastien Daucé, highly acclaimed on its first release just a few years ago.

Christmas at St George’s Windsor

Christmas at St George’s Chapel, Windsor, with the Choir of St. George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle, James Vivian, organist and conductor. New from Hyperion, this continues their series of previous recordings with this Choir. The College of St George, founded in 1348, is unusual in that it is a Royal Peculiar, a parish under the direct jurisdiction of the monarch, rather than the diocese.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Recordings

Richard Strauss: Salome
29 Aug 2010

David McVicar’s Salome

This high-concept Salome takes place in Nazi Germany.The set has two levels: on top, Herod revels with the banqueters; below, we see a dingy basement, full of kitchen workers, relaxed soldiers, and the prostitutes who help them relax.

Richard Strauss: Salome

Salome: Nadja Michael; Herodias: Michaela Schuster; Herod: Thomas Moser; Narraboth: Joseph Kaiser; Jokanaan: Michael Volle. The Orchestra of the Royal Opera House. Philippe Jordan, conductor. David McVicar, stage director. Recorded live at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden on 3, 6, and 8 March, 2008.

Opus Arte OABD7069D [Blu-Ray]

$35.99  Click to buy

To the left is a large manhole cover, under which Jochanaan fulminates; to the right is a spiral staircase, lit by a harsh moon.

It is easy to see why the director, David McVicar, would be attracted to this rehistoricizing. Suddenly the little ghost-waltz that accompanies Salome near her entrance (“Ich will nicht hineingehn”) becomes something like diegetic music; the extreme cruelty of much of the action becomes institutionalized as state policy; and we may recall, with a slight shiver, that Strauss’s only recordings as a opera conductor are of fragments from two 1942 performances of Salome. On the other hand, the opera’s treatment of the disputatious Jews is unsympathetic, and the Nietzschean Strauss said that he regarded Jochanaan in particular as a clown; so McVicar skirts a dangerous area of interpretation, in which the Jews of the Third Reich might seem to deserve what they get. Possibly McVicar tried to avoid this by playing down the comedy of the disputation-fugue: the Jews look at one another like mildly peeved intellectuals.

Wilde regarded Salome and John the Baptist as occult twins, and even contemplated a sequel in which Salome, still alive after being crushed by the soldiers’ shields, put on a hair-shirt and started to preach the gospel of Jesus in the wilderness; eventually she would make her way to France and fall through the frozen Rhône—the ice would refreeze leaving only her head visible. Nadja Michael’s Salome is hectoring, brutal, unseductive—she is a sexual being only through sadism. She doesn’t cajole Narraboth into opening the cistern: she browbeats him, and even pushes him to the floor when he capitulates. Michael raves powerfully throughout the opera, and sings powerfully too, though she doesn’t always hit the correct notes, and there’s a distracting warble in her voice, almost the warble of 1940s pop singers.

Michael Volle’s Jochanaan is everything you could want: shirtless, dressed in a long drab Jewish coat with a phallic belt-dangle, he is a potent lunatic, uncontrolled in his gestures as he reels across the stage, but superbly controlled in his voice. When he sings of Herodias’ lovers—the young Egyptians in their delicate linen and hyacinth stones and golden shields and gigantic bodies—he writhes on the floor, as if he were caught up in some sexual trance at the thought of these beautiful young foreigners. This is how the production emphasizes the way in which Jochanaan and Salome are doubles: they are both obsessive-compulsives, obsessive-convulsives, mad with lust.

The unhappy aspect of this production is the Herod of Thomas Moser. Moser can make a handsome sound, but he’s a somewhat listless presence, loud but bland. Philippe Jordan, the brilliant conductor, makes the opera move like the wind (as all Strauss opera, particularly the schmaltzy ones, should move) except when Moser sings: then momentum is lost, perhaps owing to Moser’s flaccid, rhythmically inexact phrasing. His one impressive scene is a silent one, during Salome’s dance, here staged as a black-out scene in which Herod and Salome play together with a Salome-shaped doll, a dress-maker’s dummy, a large dressing-mirror, and a long rack of dresses—it’s a lovely conceit, as Salome enters Herod’s fantasy-world of fetishes and idols, deflections of sexuality onto dead images. Wilde’s Salome was never anything much more than an image in a mirror: “She is like the shadow of a white rose in a mirror of silver,” Narraboth says, and in her dance she dances her way right into the glass that she, in some sense, never left.

Daniel Albright

 

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):