R. STRAUSS Salome • Daniel Harding, cond; Nadja Michael (Salome); Falk Struckmann (Jochanaan); Peter Bronder (Herod); Iris Vermillion (Herodias); Matthias Klink (Narraboth); Teatro alla Scala O • TDK OPSALOME (DVD: 108:00) Live:Read more Milan 3/2007
This is the second DVD released in the past several months highlighting Nadja Michael’s sensational performance as Salome. She was the focal point of David McVicar’s controversial Covent Garden production (Fanfare 32:4), and she is even better here. After an initial titillating view of McVicar’s provocative production, I suspect that most Richard Strauss aficionados and opera-lovers will prefer this relatively plain and conventional live La Scala version (which is basically director Luc Bondy’s 1992 Salzburg/Covent Garden production with a few modifications). Bondy adheres to Strauss’s intentions with a single monochromatic and minimalist set, in this case, a cold and dark room with bluish lighting and a large moon shining through a single window. At stage center is a long, movable, metallic appearing structure with a flat top overlying Jochanaan’s cistern. This is a pivotal area on the set for Michael because her Salome is first and foremost about her incredibly graceful and balletic movements on stage. She slithers around and climbs over the top of the cistern with amazing athleticism. She absolutely refuses to wander around the stage at any time in stock operatic fashion. Every move and facial expression (effectively captured by the camera close-ups) has a calculated meaning, but her performance seems totally spontaneous. The “Dance of the Seven Veils,” performed in a darkly colored, discrete, see-through outfit, is suitably erotic and more conventional than McVicar’s bizarre and somewhat nebulous trip through a series of doors. Again, it is left uncertain as to what happens at the climax, which occurs offstage (as with McVicar). Michael’s finale is incredibly intense, even though her voice is small for Salome. As in the McVicar production, she is constantly on the edge vocally, but that succeeds in adding to the suspense and veracity of her portrayal. She is in better voice here. There is no question that Michael’s Salome works better on DVD than it would on CD.
After Michael’s Salome, one would think that the supporting roles would hardly matter, but they are uniformly good here. Peter Bronder’s Herod presents as an absurd little figure with bright red-orange hair and a costume resembling a pair of pajamas covered by a bathrobe or cloak. His singing is fine. Iris Vermillion (Herodias) wears an expression and purplish hairdo that are somewhere between Gloria Swanson in Sunset Boulevard and Elsa Lanchester in Bride of Frankenstein (both of which were memorably scored by Franz Waxman who took his stylistic cue from Salome in the final scene from Sunset Boulevard). Vermillion is equally fine vocally. This is great stuff. Falk Struckmann’s voice lies well for Jochanaan, but his rather chunky figure make’s Salome’s comments about how gaunt he is seem sort of silly. Matthias Klink (Narraboth) has an extremely attractive lyric tenor voice, and his suicide is actually integrated into the action (as opposed to McVicar’s version where Narraboth almost parenthetically kills himself in the background). The La Scala Orchestra sounds amazing. Daniel Harding presides over an orchestral performance that rivals Georg Solti and the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra in their Decca-London recording with Birgit Nilsson’s vocally memorable Salome. The orchestral interlude following Salome’s confrontation with Jochanaan is ferocious, but Harding never overpowers his singers and is just as effective in bringing out all of the exotic nuances of Strauss’s score. After watching Michael here, I am prepared to say that she may even surpass Teresa Stratas in terms of stage presence and movement. Her performance and Strauss’s music can be mesmerizing. She does not have the pure vocal command of Karita Mattila, but her voice is probably closer to what Strauss had in mind when he warned that the orchestra should not drown out the singers in Salome. As for Michael’s acting, there is no contest.
The album contains only a brief essay on Salome and a list of index points. Audio formats are PCM stereo and DTS 5.1 surround. Since this is unfortunately not a Blu-ray, stereo is clearly preferable. Subtitles are available in English, French, German, Italian, and Spanish. Strauss fans need to see Michael’s Salome, and this is her preferred version. Now, someone needs to release a DVD of Michael’s early 2009 Covent Garden performance in Erich Wolfgang Korngold’s Die Tote Stadt.
FANFARE: Arthur Lintgen
Picture format: NTSC 16:9
Sound format: PCM Stereo / Dolby Digital 5.1 / DTS 5.1
Region code: 0 (worldwide)
Menu language: English
Subtitles: English, German, French, Spanish, Italian
Running time: 108 mins
No. of DVDs: 1 (DVD 9) Read less
Works on This Recording
Salome, Op. 54by Richard Strauss Performer:
Iris Vermillion (Mezzo Soprano),
Matthias Klink (Tenor),
Falk Struckmann (Baritone),
Nadja Michael (Mezzo Soprano),
Peter Bronder (Tenor)
Milan Teatro alla Scala Orchestra
Period: Romantic Written: 1903-1905; Germany Date of Recording: 2007 Venue: Teatro alla Scala, Milan
Average Customer Review: ( 1 Customer Review )
DisgustingNovember 17, 2015By Morris Reagan (Madison, MS)See All My Reviews"I know that my reaction to this opera is contrary to establishment opinion, which is positive. (Apparently it was one of George Szell's favorite Strauss operas.) But regardless of the quality of the performance, for me the thing was abhorrent. The sight of an evil female caressing and kissing the severed head of John the Baptist wrapped in a bloody sheet was revolting. How could any actor in this piece take a smiling bow after the curtain of this horror show? I have profound respect for George Szell. If he was second to any orchestra conductor of the twentieth century, it was only to Toscanini. But I don't share his admiration for this opera."Report Abuse