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

Roger Quilter: The Complete Quilter Songbook, Vol. 3

Mark Stone and Stephen Barlow present Volume 3 in their series The Complete Roger Quilter Songbook, on Stone Records.

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.

Natalya Romaniw - Arion: Voyage of a Slavic Soul

Sailing home to Corinth, bearing treasures won in a music competition, the mythic Greek bard, Arion, found his golden prize coveted by pirates and his life in danger.

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.

Purcell’s The Indian Queen from Lille

Among the few compensations opera lovers have had from the COVID crisis is the abundance – alas, plethora – of streamed opera productions we might never have seen or even known of without it.

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.

Philip Venables' Denis & Katya: teenage suicide and audience complicity

As an opera composer, Philip Venables writes works quite unlike those of many of his contemporaries. They may not even be operas at all, at least in the conventional sense - and Denis & Katya, the most recent of his two operas, moves even further away from this standard. But what Denis & Katya and his earlier work, 4.48 Psychosis, have in common is that they are both small, compact forces which spiral into extraordinarily powerful and explosive events.

A new, blank-canvas Figaro at English National Opera

Making his main stage debut at ENO with this new production of The Marriage of Figaro, theatre director Joe Hill-Gibbins professes to have found it difficult to ‘develop a conceptual framework for the production to inhabit’.

Massenet’s Chérubin charms at Royal Academy Opera

“Non so più cosa son, cosa faccio … Now I’m fire, now I’m ice, any woman makes me change colour, any woman makes me quiver.”

Bluebeard’s Castle, Munich

Last year the world’s opera companies presented only nine staged runs of Béla Bartòk’s Bluebeard’s Castle.

The Queen of Spades at Lyric Opera of Chicago

If obsession is key to understanding the dramatic and musical fabric of Tchaikovsky’s opera The Queen of Spades, the current production at Lyric Opera of Chicago succeeds admirably in portraying such aspects of the human psyche.

WNO revival of Carmen in Cardiff

Unveiled by Welsh National Opera last autumn, this Carmen is now in its first revival. Original director Jo Davies has abandoned picture postcard Spain and sun-drenched vistas for images of grey, urban squalor somewhere in modern-day Latin America.

Lise Davidsen 'rescues' Tobias Kratzer's Fidelio at the Royal Opera House

Making Fidelio - Beethoven’s paean to liberty, constancy and fidelity - an emblem of the republican spirit of the French Revolution is unproblematic, despite the opera's censor-driven ‘Spanish’ setting.

A sunny, insouciant Così from English Touring Opera

Beach balls and parasols. Strolls along the strand. Cocktails on the terrace. Laura Attridge’s new production of Così fan tutte which opened English Touring Opera’s 2020 spring tour at the Hackney Empire, is a sunny, insouciant and often downright silly affair.

A wonderful role debut for Natalya Romaniw in ENO's revival of Minghella's Madama Butterfly

The visual beauty of Anthony Minghella’s 2005 production of Madama Butterfly, now returning to the Coliseum stage for its seventh revival, still takes one’s breath away.

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):