Thursday, 11 February 2016

Richard Strauss, Salome - Deutsche Oper Berlin

Performance 6th February

For the very first time I visited Germany's capital and one of the two big opera houses there. On the programme was Strauss' first really successful opera Salome. A piece that genuinely challenges the audience with brutality and music that reaches the borders of tonality. Nevertheless it is an incredible piece that contains much psychological issues in its plot.
The production's director Claus Guth transferred the plot into a custum tailoring shop led by Herodes and centered the whole story around Herodes and Salome showing that he maybe loved her a little too much (as said in the libretto). Basically it explores the almost pedophile relation between those two characters and introduces Jochanaan as imaginative better version of Herodes (and finally only as shop window mannequin). The whole idea was quite sophisticated but could have been a little clearer from the beginning. Anyway the staging and costumes by Muriel Gerstner were great and looked wonderful. Something I also liked a lot was the idea of having several younger versions of Salome (from very young age to adult) to show the different stages of Salome and her psychological condition.
Musically Alain Altinoglu showed the ravishing score skillfully and supported the singers extremely well. Sometimes I wished for more power from the orchestra (which sat quite low in the pit) but in total it was a very pleasing performance of the Orchester der Deutschen Oper Berlin. Especially the Dance of the seven veils (which technically is really demanding and tricky) distinctly showed the high professionalism of the orchestra.
The number of named roles in this short opera is enormous even though many of them barely have more to sing than one sentence. Therefore I will skip these roles including the Jews, soldiers etc. and will start with Annika Schlicht as Page. She also does not have much to sing but sang the few lines of her part genuinely lovely with a very beautiful voice that has a warm and beautifully-sounding timbre. Thomas Blondelle's Narraboth also was very clear and beautifully sung. His tenor has a very light youthful timbre but is still powerful enough to be heard over the orchestra appropriately.
Jeanne-Michèle Charbonnet sang an almost perfect Herodias with dramatic phrasing and great acting skills. She totally conveyed the weirdness and depravity of her role. Burkhard Ulrich as Herodes also showed great acting skills. Vocally he also did a wonderful job even though I sometimes felt that he does not feel 100% comfortable in this role. Nevertheless his performance was truly marvelous from the beginning to the very end.
Michael Volle probably gave the performance of the evening as Jochanaan. His powerful voice sounds dignified and heroic at the same time. The virile timbre and his solemn phrasing made his performance truly magnificent and really impressed me.
Due to illness Catherine Naglestad had to cancel her performance and soprano Allison Oakes jumped in. During her first line Oakes sounded very silently but soon showed that she definitely has the voice for this role. From the very low parts of the role to the very top (Salome has quite a range to handle) she sounded great and showed high musicality with her smart phrasing. Some of the top notes sometimes could have been a little softer but her overall performance was really great.
I totally enjoyed the whole performance and was really impressed by the work of the Deutsche Oper Berlin. I am happy to be visiting several other performances there during the next few months. The performance of Salome gets 9 stars for a really lovely evening.
Reviewed by Daniel Url

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