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 Reviews

OSJ: A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Harem

Opera San Jose kicked off its 35th anniversary season with a delectably effervescent production of their first-ever mounting of Mozart’s youthful opus, The Abduction from the Seraglio.

Superlative Lohengrin from Bayreuth, 1967

The names of Belfast-born soprano Heather Harper and Kansas-born tenor James King may not resonate for younger music lovers, but they sure do for folks my age. Harper was the glowing, nimble soprano in Colin Davis’s renowned 1966 recording of Handel’s Messiah and in Davis’s top-flight recording (ca. 1978) of Britten’s Peter Grimes, featuring Jon Vickers.

Isouard's Cinderella: Bampton Classical Opera at St John's Smith Square

A good fairy-tale sweeps us away on a magic carpet while never letting us forget that for all the enchanting transformations, beneath the sorcery lie essential truths.

The Royal Opera House lets everyone in on the act

The Royal Opera House today opens the doors to its transformed new home, following an extensive three-year construction project.

A Winterreise both familiar and revelatory: Ian Bostridge and Thomas Adès at Wigmore Hall

‘“Will you play your hurdy-gurdy to my songs?” the wanderer asks. If the answer were to be a “yes”, then the crazy but logical procedure would be to go right back to the beginning of the whole cycle and start all over again. This could explore a notion of eternal recurrence: we are trapped in the endless repetition of this existential lament.’

Stars of Lyric Opera at Millennium Park, 2018

Lyric Opera of Chicago’s annual concert, Stars of Lyric Opera at Millennium Park, given during last weekend, was both a tribute to the many facets of opera and a preview of what lies ahead in the upcoming repertoire season.

Classical Opera: Bastien und Bastienne on Signum Classics

Pride and Prejudice, North and South, Antony and Cleopatra, Much Ado About Nothing: literary fiction and drama are strewn with dissembling lovers who display differing degrees of Machiavellian sharpness in matters of amatory strategy. But, there is an artless ingenuousness about Bastien and Bastienne, the eponymous pastoral protagonists of Mozart’s 1768 opera, who pretend not to love in order to seal their shared romantic destiny, but who require a hefty dose of the ‘Magician’ Colas’s conjuring/charlatanry in order to avoid a future of lonely singledom.

A Stunning Semiramide from Opera Rara

In early October 1822, Gioachino Rossini summoned the librettist Gaetano Rossi to a villa (owned by his wife, the soprano Isabella Colbran) in Castenaso, just outside Bologna. Their project: to work on a new opera, which would be premiered during the Carnival in Venice on 3rd February the following year, based on the legend of Queen Semiramide.

Dorothea Röschmann at Wigmore Hall: songs by Schumann, Wolf and Brahms

One should not judge a performance by its audience, but spying Mitsuko Uchida in the audience is unlikely ever to prove a negative sign. It certainly did not here, in a wonderfully involving recital of songs by Schumannn, Wolf, and Brahms from Dorothea Röschmann and Malcolm Martineau.

Two of Garsington Opera's 2018 productions to reach a wider audience

Garsington Opera is delighted to announce that on Saturday 6 October, BBC Radio 3’s ‘Opera on 3’, will broadcast the production of its first festival world premiere - The Skating Rink by David Sawer set to a libretto by Rory Mullarkey based on a novel by Chilean author Roberto Bolaño.

The Path of Life: Ilker Arcayürek sings Schubert at Wigmore Hall

Wigmore Hall’s BBC Radio 3 Lunchtime Concert 2018-19 series opened this week with a journey along The Path of Life as illustrated by the songs of Schubert, and it offered a rare chance to hear the composer’s long, and long-germinating, setting of Johann Baptist Mayrhofer’s philosophical rumination, ‘Einsamkeit’ - an extended eulogy to loneliness which Schubert described, in a letter of 1822, as the best thing he had done, “mein Bestes, was ich gemacht habe”.

Heine through Song: Florian Boesch and Malcolm Martineau open a new Wigmore Hall season

The BBC Proms have now gone into hibernation until July 2019. But, as the hearty patriotic strains rang out over South Kensington on Saturday evening, in Westminster the somewhat gentler, but no less emotive, flame of nineteenth-century lied was re-lit at Wigmore Hall, as baritone Florian Boesch and pianist Malcolm Martineau opened the Hall’s 2018-19 season with a recital comprising song settings of texts by Heinrich Heine.

Elgar Orchestral Songs - SOMM

Edward Elgar's Sea Pictures are extremely well-known, but many others are also worth hearing. From SOMM recordings, specialists in British repertoire, comes this interesting new collection of other Elgar orchestral songs, sponsored by the Elgar Society.

Prom 74: Handel's Theodora

“One of the most insufferable prigs in a literature.” Handel scholar Winton Dean’s dismissal of Theodora, the eponymous heroine of Handel’s 1749 oratorio, may well have been shared by many among his contemporary audience.

Remembering and Representing Dido, Queen of Carthage: an interview with Thomas Guthrie

The first two instalments of the Academy of Ancient Music’s ‘Purcell trilogy’ at the Barbican Hall have posed plentiful questions - creative, cultural and political.

Landmark Productions and Irish National Opera present The Second Violinist

Renaissance madrigals and twentieth-century social media don’t at first seem likely bed-fellows. However, Martin - the protagonist of The Second Violinist, a new opera by composer Donnacha Dennehy and librettist Enda Walsh - is, like the late sixteenth-century composer, Carlo Gesualdo, an artist with homicidal tendencies. And, Dennehy and Walsh bring music, madness and murder together in a Nordic noir thriller that has more than a touch of Stringbergian psychological anxiety, analysis and antagonism.

The Rake's Progress: British Youth Opera

The cautionary tale which W.H. Auden and Chester Kallman fashioned for Igor Stravinsky’s 1951 opera, The Rake’s Progress - recounting the downward course of an archetypal libertine from the faux fulfilment of matrimonial and monetary dreams to the grim reality of madness and death - was, of course, an elaboration of William Hogarth’s 1733 series of eight engravings.

Prom 71: John Eliot Gardiner and the Orchestre Revolutionaire et Romantique play Berlioz

Having recently recorded the role of Dido in Berlioz' Les Troyens on Warner Classics, there was genuine excitement at the prospect of hearing Joyce DiDonato performing Dido's death scene live at the BBC Proms. She joined John Eliot Gardiner and the Orchestre Revolutionaire et Romantique for an all-Berlioz Prom at the Royal Albert Hall on Wednesday 5 September 2018. As well as the scene from Les Troyens, DiDonato sang La mort de Cleopatre and the orchestra performed the overture Le Corsaire and The Royal Hunt and Storm from Les Troyens, and were joined by viola player Antoine Tamestit for Harold in Italy.

ENO Studio Live: Paul Bunyan

“A telegram, a telegram,/ A telegram from Hollywood./ Inkslinger is the name; And I think that the news is good.” The Western Union Boy’s missive, delivered to Johnny Inkslinger in the closing moments of 1941 ‘choral operetta’ Paul Bunyan and directly connecting the American Dream with success in Tinseltown, may have echoed an offer that Benjamin Britten himself received, for the composer had written expectantly to Wulff Scherchen on 7th February 1939, ‘(((Shshshsssh … I may have an offer from Holywood [sic] for a film, but don’t say a word))).’ Ten days later he wrote again: ‘Hollywood seems a bit nearer - I’ve got an interview with the Producer on Monday’.

Young audience embraces Die Zauberflöte at Dutch National Opera

The Dutch National Opera season opens officially on the 7th of September with a third run of Simon McBurney’s production of Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte, an unqualified success at its 2012 premiere. Last Tuesday, however, an audience aged between sixteen and thirty-five got to see a preview of this co-production with English National Opera and the Aix-en-Provence Festival.

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):