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17 of 22 people found the following review helpful
Interesting and musically powered productionFeb. 22 2012
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There's initially a sense of dislocation then when you view director Nikolaus Lehnhoff's 2011 production of Salome for Baden-Baden, as it has few of the superficial visual reference points that you would normally associate with its biblical Judean setting, and little even of the stylised imagery of moonlight nights and shadows of death suggested by a text derived from Oscar Wilde's beautifully decadent overwrought imagery. This version of Salome however is far from a straightforward biblical tale, but rather an expression of dark sexual pathology, of the fulfilment of dangerous desires, of obsession and lust, a lurid study of the power that those perverse drives confer on both the object and the subject of those desires and how it differentiates men and women.
The fractured, slightly titled landscape here in Salome then suggests a psychological imbalance, while the contrasts that are expressed in the music and the characters are reflected in the textures of the walls and floors of the unconventional stage arrangement, with a dark glossy reflective centre-stage surrounded by crumbling plaster, broken tiles and rotting whitewashed wooden panels. It's far from naturalistic, but then there's nothing naturalistic about the situation or Strauss' aggressive music that pushes the boundaries of the tonal system. That dark fascination of this 'Liebestod' situation and conflict is there in the orchestration, the composer scoring directly in response to the flow and the tone of Hedwig Lachmann's German translation of Wilde's drama, and the music is accordingly intense, intimate, perverse and disturbing, but with a romantic sweep that captures the grander epic nature of the lurid melodrama.
The approach to the tone of the drama and the music and how it is reflected is important, but equally as important is how it is interpreted. The cast assembled here for the Baden-Baden production deliver superb performances to match the attentive detail that is brought out of the score by the orchestra under Stefan Soltesz. Angela Denoke plays Salome as if she is in thrall to the bizarre situation and the potential that it suggests, and that suits the production perfectly. There's a rising intensity in the performance that is in line with the score and she seems to be attuned to the slightest variations of tone within it. Alan Held is a rather more animated Jochanaan than others I have seen, less mystical and more of a firebrand prophet, and that works well with the heightened aggression on display. In this respect, the head of Jochanaan possessed by Salome at the still shocking conclusion, is also one of the most frighteningly realistic I've ever seen in a production of this opera. Theatrical prosthetics have come a long way over the years.
The Blu-ray from Arthaus is of the usual exceptionally high standards. The image is crystal clear to catch the full lighting, colour and contrasts of the set. The audio tracks are PCM Stereo and DTS HD-Master Audio 5.0, breathtaking in High Definition clarity. This is really an amazing way to view and listen to this extraordinary work. The production, incidentally, is clearly a live performance, but there are no signs of an audience being present at the opening or close of this one-act opera - much like the Lehnhoff sister production of Elektra for Baden-Baden, already available on DVD. There are no extra features, but the booklet contains a good essay on the work, a full synopsis and notes on the production by the director. The disc is BD25, region-free, 1080i full-HD, subtitles are German, English, Italian, French, Spanish and Korean.
7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
disappointingDec 15 2012
Archie (Ottawa Canada)
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Oh dear. Being an admirer of both Nikolaus Lehnhoff and Angela Denoke, I had very high hopes for this version of Salome. Alas, I find it falls short.
The set is well described in the review by Keris Nine. It is indeed dislocating, and physically indicative of a world going to seed. But, like the interpretation of the role of Salome, it goes too far. A more settled mis-en scene would be better able to allow the events of the drama to be highlighted.
When Oscar Wilde wrote the play, he was infatuated with Bozy, Lord Alfred Douglas-- the relationshio that led to his trial and imprisonment. It is likely that his infatuation (obsession) was worked out in his play which Strauss set to music pretty well unchanged. So, it is a work dealing with obsessions. But one can be obsessed without being deranged. And this is where this production fails.
Salome is the central character. She becomes obsessed with Jakonaan. To take the two best DVD's I have seen: she can be a relative innocent as played by Teresa Stratas in Gotz Friedrich's production, or a strong sexual woman as played by Maria Ewing in Peter Hall's production. In this production, Angela Denoke is overactive, overacting and over-the-top deranged. The reason is made abundantly clear in the Dance when it is obvious that she has been sexually abused by Herod. But that is really not necessary and her dramatised neuroticism is distracting throughout the production. Just contrast Denoke's ungainly hyperkinetic movements with the movements of Stratas or with Ewing's fascinated stillness. It takes away from what Wilde and presumably Strauss wanted. An obsession can take hold in a reasonably normal person and move that person to lengths undreamed of before.
The Dance is an important part of the interpretation Salome. The best I have seen is that of Ewing which is erotic and to some extent directed at Herod, but becomes frenzied and directed at Jokaanan who is the reason she agreed to dance in the first place. Here, Denoke is caught up primarily with Herod who too obviously wants her physically and she is too angry and repulsed by him to even care about Jokaanan.
But, in addition to mistaken interpretation, I must add the important observation that vocally she just is not up to the role. Her voice cannot handle the great demands that Strauss imposed.
The others in the cast are very good indeed, particularly Alan Held as Jokanaan. But this opera succeeds or not on the performance of Salome. Here it surely does not.
1 of 6 people found the following review helpful
to day SALOMENov. 2 2012
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Charming SALOME with DENOKE, even if her voice does not render perfectly all the difficulties of the part.All the other roles are very corrects and the production is judicious without vulgarity.