Monday, February 8, 2016

Review: Richard Strauss' Salome at Deutsche Oper Berlin

Claus Guth is omnipotent in Berlin. Beside this new production of Salome, next June he will direct Juliette at Staatsoper, while the mentioned house is also currently reviving his Turn of The Screw production, premiered last season.
This Salome production is quite interesting and if you wonder, no, you won't see the beheaded head of Jochanaan. Guth offered a sensitive approach toward the subject of this piece, instead of the more classic production, which usually approach the Salome figure as a myth; mysterious woman whose reasoning and lust of love & sex is strange and unapproachable back at the time of the release of the Oscar Wilde's play, even up until now. Just as his Der fliegende Hollaender in Bayreuth (premiered in 2003), the production revolves around a young Salome, a sexually-traumatized daughter of a textile tycoon, and was set in a tailor store where the workers and background figures of the opera, including Naraboth, acted as speaking dummys. Being sexually molested by Herodes, Salome's act of "rebellion" towards his father, by asking the head of Jochanaan, is a revelation of her sexual oppression. Tanz der sieben Schleier (Dance of the Seven Veils) was an interpretive dance in form of an reenactment of her past, growing in the house of her molesting step-father. The head of Jochanaan is the head of a dummy Salome took apart from its body, which made a quite confusing and anti-climatic ending, honestly. Salome walked away from the stage. Fin. It's basically a visually flat production, whose power lays in the idea and the message. Typical Guth.

Catherine Naglestad sang the title role on the premiere, but later got sick, so Allison Oakes replaced her on the show I saw. She did a great job learning all the stage directions in less than two days. Sounded quite youthful, she portrayed this Salome as an innocent, victimized young girl, instead as a blood thirsty princess of Judea. All around great performance. Michael Volle as Jochanaan succeded in the vocal and acting department, even though the production really put his character in the background. Quite a shame.  Naraboth was also pushed to the background, Herodes and Herodias were there to play the dysfunctional parents' part - the production didn't regard highly of their presence. The rest of the ensemble sounded very good. Bravo to Alain Altinoglu, he successfully made a name of himself as one of the hottest newcomer conductor right now. His conducting of Salome was another proof of his great range of expertise, the melancholic and dramatic parts were always on point, he's quite that type that sometimes overpower the singers with the loud sound of the orchestra. A little polish here and there, then we'll get a junior Thielemann.

Go see it if you're interested in "alternative" productions or if you're a Strauss fan. People with high expectation for bloody beheading or exotic images would come home empty handed. 

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