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

La Périchole in Marseille

The most notable of all Péricholes of Offenbach’s sentimental operetta is surely the legendary Hortense Schneider who created the role back in 1868 at Paris’ Théâtre des Varietés. Alas there is no digital record.

Three Centuries Collide: Widmann, Ravel and Beethoven

It’s very rare that you go to a concert and your expectation of it is completely turned on its head. This was one of those. Three works, each composed exactly a century apart, beginning and ending with performances of such clarity and brilliance.

Seventeenth-century rhetoric from The Sixteen at Wigmore Hall

‘Yes, in my opinion no rhetoric more persuadeth or hath greater power over the mind; hath not Musicke her figures, the same which Rhetorique? What is a but her Antistrophe? her reports, but sweet Anaphora's? her counterchange of points, Antimetabole's? her passionate Aires but Prosopopoea's? with infinite other of the same nature.’

Hrůša’s Mahler: A Resurrection from the Golden Age

Jakub Hrůša has an unusual gift for a conductor and that is to make the mightiest symphony sound uncommonly intimate. There were many moments during this performance of Mahler’s Resurrection Symphony where he grappled with its monumental scale while reducing sections of it to chamber music; times when the power of his vision might crack the heavens apart and times when a velvet glove imposed the solitude of prayer.

Full-Throated Troubador Serenades San José

Verdi’s sublimely memorable melodies inform and redeem his setting of the dramatically muddled Il Trovatore, the most challenging piece to stage of his middle-period successes.

Opera North deliver a chilling Turn of the Screw

Storm Dennis posed no disruption to this revival of Britten’s The Turn of the Screw, first unveiled at Leeds Grand Theatre in 2010, but there was plenty of emotional turbulence.

Luisa Miller at English National Opera

Verdi's Luisa Miller occupies an important position in the composer's operatic output. Written for Naples in 1849, the work's genesis was complex owing to problems with the theatre and the Neapolitan censors.

Eugène Onéguine in Marseille

A splendid 1997 provincial production of Tchaikovsky’s take on Pushkin’s Bryonic hero found its way onto a major Provençal stage just now. The historic Opéra Municipal de Marseille possesses a remarkable acoustic that allowed the Pushkin verses to flow magically through Tchaikovsky’s ebullient score.

Opera Undone: Tosca and La bohème

If opera can sometimes seem unyieldingly conservative, even reactionary, it made quite the change to spend an evening hearing and seeing something which was so radically done.

A refined Acis and Galatea at Cadogan Hall

The first performance of Handel's two-act Acis and Galatea - variously described as a masque, serenata, pastoral or ‘little opera’ - took place in the summer of 1718 at Cannons, the elegant residence of James Brydges, Earl of Carnavon and later Duke of Chandos.

Lise Davidsen: A superlative journey through the art of song

Are critics capable of humility? The answer should always be yes, yet I’m often surprised how rare it seems to be. It took the film critic of The Sunday Times, Dilys Powell, several decades to admit she had been wrong about Michael Powell’s Peeping Tom, a film excoriated on its release in 1960. It’s taken me considerably less time - and largely because of this astounding recital - to realise I was very wrong about Lise Davidsen.

Parsifal in Toulouse

Aurélien Bory, director of a small, avant garde theater company in Toulouse, staged a spellbinding Parsifal at the Théâtre du Capitole, Toulouse’s famed Orchestre National du Capitole in the pit — FYI the Capitole is Toulouse’s city hall, the opera house is a part of it.

An Evening with Rosina Storchio: Ermonela Jaho at Wigmore Hall

‘The world’s most acclaimed Soprano’: the programme booklet produced for Ermonela Jaho’s Wigmore Hall debut was keen to emphasise the Albanian soprano’s prestigious status, as judged by The Economist, and it was standing-room only at the Hall which was full to capacity with Jaho’s fervent fans and opera-lovers.

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.

Parsifal in Palermo

Richard Wagner chose to finish his Good Friday opera while residing in Sicily’s Palermo, partaking of the natural splendors of its famed verdant basin, the Conca d’Oro, and reveling in the golden light of its surreal Monreale cathedral.

Vladimir Jurowski conducts a magnificent Siegfried

“Siegfried is the Man of the Future, the man we wish, the man we will, but cannot make, and the man who must create himself through our annihilation.” This was Richard Wagner, writing in 1854, his thoughts on Siegfried. The hero of Wagner’s Siegfried, however, has quite some journey to travel before he gets to the vision the composer described in that letter to August Roeckel. Watching Torsten Kerl’s Siegfried in this - largely magnificent - concert performance one really wondered how tortuous a journey this would be.

I Capuleti e i Montecchi in Rome

Shakespearean sentiments may gracefully enrich Gounod’s Romeo et Juliet, but powerful Baroque tensions enthrall us in the bel canto complexities of Vincenzo Bellini’s I Capuleti e i Montecchi. Conductor Daniele Gatti’s offered a truly fine bel canto evening at Rome’s Teatro dell’Opera introducing a trio of fine young artists.

Santtu-Matias Rouvali makes versatile debut with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra

Finnish conductor Santtu-Matias Rouvali has been making waves internationally for some time. The chief conductor of the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra is set to take over from Esa-Pekka Salonen as principal conductor of the Philharmonia Orchestra in 2021.

Tristan und Isolde in Bologna

East German stage director Ralf Pleger promised us a Tristan unlike anything we had ever seen. It was indeed. And Slovakian conductor Jura Valčuha gave us a Tristan as never before heard. All of this just now in the most Wagnerian of all Italian cities — Bologna!


Seductively morbid – The Fall of the House of Usher in The Hague

What does it feel like to be depressed? “It’s like water seeping into my heart” is how one young sufferer put it.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

Asmik Grigorian as Salome [Photo copyright Ruth Walz, courtesy of the Salzburg Festival]
15 Aug 2018

Salome in Salzburg

A Romeo Castellucci production is always news, it is even bigger news just now in Salzburg where Lithuanian soprano Asmik Grigorian has made her debut as the fifteen year-old Salome.

Salome at the Salzburg Festival

A review by Michael Milenski

Above: Asmik Grigorian as Salome [All photos copyright Ruth Walz, courtesy of the Salzburg Festival]

 

Castellucci creates theater as Richard Strauss creates music. It is a language all its own, though sometimes of concrete reference it is usually an abstract flow of stimuli that create their own reality.

Here Castellucci has made a Salzburg Salome. Starting with the Latin "te saxo loquuator" (what the stones may say to you), a phrase found only in Salzburg where it is inscribed above the entry of the 18th century tunnel connecting old Salzburg with a later Salzburg built beyond its famous mountain.

Castellucci inscribes the phrase on a cloth that covers the massive galleries cut into the cliff behind the old riding school theater where he holds us in silence, save a cricket sounding. Finally the cloth parts to reveal that the galleries have been filled in with stone creating a gigantic cavern. Specific images appear, Salome in a white dress stained by menstrual blood standing on the huge mirrored floor, a displaced disk revealing a black hole.

Salome_Salzburg3.pngThe dance

Only when we have fully entered into Castellucci’s theater does the Strauss music begin. The players of the Vienna Philharmonic and maestro Franz Welzer-Möst become very present in the Castellucci's theater world — they themselves in fact become the dance that dooms the 15 year-old princess — Salome herself folded, immobile on a pedestal during the dance, a huge square cut stone slowly descending to crush her under its massive weight (sublime choreography by Castellucci collaborator Cindy Van Acker).

Castellucci’s implacable stone world reflects everything except the black voids he creates for the prophet’s aura and for Herod’s doom. There is no color save the occasional lightening flashes of brilliant red or blue and the painted red faces of Herodes, Narraboth, and the black-hatted Jews and the Nazarenes, and the huge gold, rolling wine chalice that links the brass horns of the pit to the stage.

A live black stallion dances a vista in Jochanaan’s cistern to Salome’s orchestrally created sexual fantasy. It is the stallion’s severed head that is then presented to Salome. In the final moments of the opera Salome herself descends into a pit — the final image of Castellucci’s theater is Salome’s head, a deathly silver light illuminating her face.

Like all productions in the Felsenreitschule (the name of the old riding school theater) Castellucci’s Salome is site specific. Thus I have spoiled nothing for you by revealing a few of its more striking images — the production is and will always be unique to these stones of Salzburg and its festival and for all that this may mean.

The sine non qua of the Castellucci production is its protagonist, Lithuanian soprano Asmik Grigorian. Diminutive, lithe, of fresh and beautiful voice to her death and dramatically expansive in her movements this extraordinary artist was as real and vivid a presence in Strauss’ account of an adolescent awakening as was the black stallion that was Jochanaan.

Salome_Salzburg2.pngJohn Daszak as Herod

The prurient world surrounding Salome’s innocence erupted into a frenzy of battling images, during which the salient image was the cleansing of Jochanaan’s blackened body. Conductor Welzer-Möst’s orchestra created a frantic orgy of argument clearly visible in the a vista pit. The physical presence of the Vienna Philharmonic within the confines of the Castellucci theater world engendered a toxicity of enormous and hugely indulgent proportion.

English tenor John Daszak was the stark Herodes, his tormented spirit dominating every moment of Castellucci’s theater. Hungarian bass-baritone Gábor Bretz menacingly rang out his prophecies and admonitions shrouded in blackness. The pleas and imprecations of Italian mezzo soprano Anna Maria Chiuri’s Herodias were largely overlooked in the fracas of Castellucci’s powerfully masculine world, Salome its innocent victim.

Michael Milenski


Cast and production information:

Herod: John Daszak: Herodias: Anna Maria Chiuri; Salome: Asmik Grigorian; Jochanaan: Gábor Bretz; Narraboth: Julian Prégardien; Herodias' page: Avery Amereau; Jews/Nazarines/Soldiers: Matthäus Schmidlechner, Mathias Frey, Patrick Vogel, Jörg Schneider, David Steffens, Tilmann Rönnebeck, Paweł Trojak, Neven Crnić, Henning von Schulman, Dashon Burton. The Vienna Philharmonic. Conductor: Franz Welser-Möst; Production (stage direction, sets, costumes and lighting): Romeo Castellucci.

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):