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 Reviews

ETO Autumn 2020 Season Announcement: Lyric Solitude

English Touring Opera are delighted to announce a season of lyric monodramas to tour nationally from October to December. The season features music for solo singer and piano by Argento, Britten, Tippett and Shostakovich with a bold and inventive approach to making opera during social distancing.

Love, always: Chanticleer, Live from London … via San Francisco

This tenth of ten Live from London concerts was in fact a recorded live performance from California. It was no less enjoyable for that, and it was also uplifting to learn that this wasn’t in fact the ‘last’ LfL event that we will be able to enjoy, courtesy of VOCES8 and their fellow vocal ensembles (more below …).

Dreams and delusions from Ian Bostridge and Imogen Cooper at Wigmore Hall

Ever since Wigmore Hall announced their superb series of autumn concerts, all streamed live and available free of charge, I’d been looking forward to this song recital by Ian Bostridge and Imogen Cooper.

Henry Purcell, Royal Welcome Songs for King Charles II Vol. III: The Sixteen/Harry Christophers

The Sixteen continues its exploration of Henry Purcell’s Welcome Songs for Charles II. As with Robert King’s pioneering Purcell series begun over thirty years ago for Hyperion, Harry Christophers is recording two Welcome Songs per disc.

Treasures of the English Renaissance: Stile Antico, Live from London

Although Stile Antico’s programme article for their Live from London recital introduced their selection from the many treasures of the English Renaissance in the context of the theological debates and upheavals of the Tudor and Elizabethan years, their performance was more evocative of private chamber music than of public liturgy.

Anima Rara: Ermonela Jaho

In February this year, Albanian soprano Ermonela Jaho made a highly lauded debut recital at Wigmore Hall - a concert which both celebrated Opera Rara’s 50th anniversary and honoured the career of the Italian soprano Rosina Storchio (1872-1945), the star of verismo who created the title roles in Leoncavallo’s La bohème and Zazà, Mascagni’s Lodoletta and Puccini’s Madama Butterfly.

A wonderful Wigmore Hall debut by Elizabeth Llewellyn

Evidently, face masks don’t stifle appreciative “Bravo!”s. And, reducing audience numbers doesn’t lower the volume of such acclamations. For, the audience at Wigmore Hall gave soprano Elizabeth Llewellyn and pianist Simon Lepper a greatly deserved warm reception and hearty response following this lunchtime recital of late-Romantic song.

Requiem pour les temps futurs: An AI requiem for a post-modern society

Collapsology. Or, perhaps we should use the French word ‘Collapsologie’ because this is a transdisciplinary idea pretty much advocated by a series of French theorists - and apparently, mostly French theorists. It in essence focuses on the imminent collapse of modern society and all its layers - a series of escalating crises on a global scale: environmental, economic, geopolitical, governmental; the list is extensive.

The Sixteen: Music for Reflection, live from Kings Place

For this week’s Live from London vocal recital we moved from the home of VOCES8, St Anne and St Agnes in the City of London, to Kings Place, where The Sixteen - who have been associate artists at the venue for some time - presented a programme of music and words bound together by the theme of ‘reflection’.

Iestyn Davies and Elizabeth Kenny explore Dowland's directness and darkness at Hatfield House

'Such is your divine Disposation that both you excellently understand, and royally entertaine the Exercise of Musicke.’

Ádám Fischer’s 1991 MahlerFest Kassel ‘Resurrection’ issued for the first time

Amongst an avalanche of new Mahler recordings appearing at the moment (Das Lied von der Erde seems to be the most favoured, with three) this 1991 Mahler Second from the 2nd Kassel MahlerFest is one of the more interesting releases.

Paradise Lost: Tête-à-Tête 2020

‘And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels, And prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven … that old serpent … Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.’

Max Lorenz: Tristan und Isolde, Hamburg 1949

If there is one myth, it seems believed by some people today, that probably needs shattering it is that post-war recordings or performances of Wagner operas were always of exceptional quality. This 1949 Hamburg Tristan und Isolde is one of those recordings - though quite who is to blame for its many problems takes quite some unearthing.

Joyce DiDonato: Met Stars Live in Concert

There was never any doubt that the fifth of the twelve Met Stars Live in Concert broadcasts was going to be a palpably intense and vivid event, as well as a musically stunning and theatrically enervating experience.

‘Where All Roses Go’: Apollo5, Live from London

‘Love’ was the theme for this Live from London performance by Apollo5. Given the complexity and diversity of that human emotion, and Apollo5’s reputation for versatility and diverse repertoire, ranging from Renaissance choral music to jazz, from contemporary classical works to popular song, it was no surprise that their programme spanned 500 years and several musical styles.

The Academy of St Martin in the Fields 're-connect'

The Academy of St Martin in the Fields have titled their autumn series of eight concerts - which are taking place at 5pm and 7.30pm on two Saturdays each month at their home venue in Trafalgar Square, and being filmed for streaming the following Thursday - ‘re:connect’.

Lucy Crowe and Allan Clayton join Sir Simon Rattle and the LSO at St Luke's

The London Symphony Orchestra opened their Autumn 2020 season with a homage to Oliver Knussen, who died at the age of 66 in July 2018. The programme traced a national musical lineage through the twentieth century, from Britten to Knussen, on to Mark-Anthony Turnage, and entwining the LSO and Rattle too.

Choral Dances: VOCES8, Live from London

With the Live from London digital vocal festival entering the second half of the series, the festival’s host, VOCES8, returned to their home at St Annes and St Agnes in the City of London to present a sequence of ‘Choral Dances’ - vocal music inspired by dance, embracing diverse genres from the Renaissance madrigal to swing jazz.

Royal Opera House Gala Concert

Just a few unison string wriggles from the opening of Mozart’s overture to Le nozze di Figaro are enough to make any opera-lover perch on the edge of their seat, in excited anticipation of the drama in music to come, so there could be no other curtain-raiser for this Gala Concert at the Royal Opera House, the latest instalment from ‘their House’ to ‘our houses’.

Fading: The Gesualdo Six at Live from London

"Before the ending of the day, creator of all things, we pray that, with your accustomed mercy, you may watch over us."

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

05 Aug 2018

Rock solid Strauss Salomé- Salzburg

Richard Strauss Salomé from the Salzburg Festival, conducted by Franz Welser-Möst, a powerful interpretation of an opera which defies easy answers, performed and produced with such distinction thast it suceeds on every level. The words "Te saxa Loquuntur" (The stones are speaking to you) are projected onto the stage. Salzburg regulars will recognize this as a reference to the rock foundations on which part of the city is built, and the traditions of excellence the Festival represents. In this opera, the characters talk at cross-purposes, hearing without understanding. The phrase suggests that what might not be explicitly spoken might have much to reveal.

Richard Strauss - Salomé - Franz Welser-Möst (conductor), Julian Prégardien, Asmik Grigorian, Gábor Bretz, John Daszak, Anna Maria Chiuri, Romeo Castellucci (director) live broadcast from the Salzburg Festival, 28th July 2018

A review by Anne Ozorio

 

Behind a gauze sceen, a madonna figure with lace veil and golden crown materializes, laying down her veil. Dark figures appear, crushing the veil and crown underfoot. Princess Salomé (a sensational Asmik Grigorian) enters. "Wie schön ist die Prinzessin Salome heute Nacht!" sings Narraboth (Julien Prégardien, vocally recognizable even beneath the makeup), his lines repeating in different patterns. Dark swelling chords surge from the orchestra, Salomé puts on the veil and crown. Like the Madonna she's worshipped (by Narraboth) but later treated as a whore (by Herodes - John Daszak). Horns and trombones call from the pit, heralding the voice of Jochanaan (Gábor Bretz).

This staging (by Romeo Castellucci) manages to depict the multiple levels in the opera as a coherent whole. Instead of depicting the dungeon as an underground cavern, it uses the simple device of a black hole projected onto the stage, from which Jochanaan emerges, first garbed as a mythic beast hardly visible against the blackness behind him. The hole is nearly always present, breaking into the marble and mirror glass neatness of the palace. Later it will serve as a technical device disguising quick scene changes. This is perceptive since the opera itself deals with the way Jochanaan's presence unsettles Salomé, and the way the subconcious intrudes into consciousness. Bretz holds aloft a circular object, like an opaque mirror.

Mirror images abound. Salomé speaks at Jochanaan with images of beauty proliferating in nearly every line, swiftly changing and moving, Grigorian singing with good rhythmic deliberation, almost as though she was already singing the dance of veils. As Salomé moves in on Jochanaan to kiss him, the orchestra wails in horror. "Du bist verflucht." sings Bretz, with malevolent force "Du bist verflucht, Salomé!" Welser-Möst brings out the strident dissonace, brasses blaring and exhaling - not unlike over-excited human screams. Then Grigorian dances, slowly, in time to the music, her legs exposed. It's explicitly erotic, though chaste. Tubas and baleful bassoons announce the entry of Herodes and Herodias (Anna Maria Chiuri) and their retinue, stepping over Narraboth’s corpse, unperturbed. More characters at cross-purposes. "Hört ihr es nicht?" "Ich höre nichts" Clarity in the singing makes the exchanges bristle with tension. This was particularly effective in the interaction between Herodes and the Jews and Nazarenes. They too are "dancing" games of non-communication. When the voice of Jochanaan blasts through again, Bretz cuts through, firm and direct.

A monolith marked "Saxa" is shifted, revealing Grigorian, now in a silk shift, looking vulnerable. But something has changed in her. Her lines are now fierce, almost monotone, rising to maniacal savagery. Now she's seen in a circle, surounded by white liquid. No whitewash, not milk so much as the symbolism of the moon of which she sang before she encountered Jochannan "Ja, wie die Schönheit einer Jungfrau, die rein geblieben ist." Herodes grows more insistent, and the red paint, covering Daszak’s face like a mask, melts away, staining his clean white shirt. "Ich will den Kopf des Jochanaan" sings Grigorian, her vouce rising to wild crescendo. Still, Herodes prevaricates, his lines disintegrated into horrified fragments. Welser-Möst hold nothing back, defining the turbulence with its sharp brass alarums and thunderclaps of percussion. Grigorian alternates between ferocity and tenderness, searching lines reaching out, then receding into regret. A tour de force performance, made even more moving by the sensitive filming which picks up the emotion in her expressive face. The dancing here is in the voice part and the music swirling around it: Grigorian embraces the headless corpse of the prophet, seated like a Babylonian statue, carved in stone. "Ich habe ihn geküsst, deinen Mund", she sings against a luminous orchestral background which rises to strange, unsettling valediction. And so Salomé dies, her head poking from a hole in the ground, as if on a silver platter.

This is a production of surreal, esoteric beauty, so full of subtle detail that it will, in time, reveal even more depths. Kudos to the dramaturge Piersandra Di Matteo. But it also reveals extremely high levels of musicianship, both in the singing and orchestral playing. Since it is co-sponsored by ORF, 3sat and UNITEL in co-operation with Wiener Philharmoniker and the Salzburg Festival, no doubt a DVD will be forthcoming. In which case grab it.

Anne Ozorio

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):