Sunday, 18 June 2017

Richard Strauss, Salome - Oper Leipzig

Premiere Performance 17th June

Day 4 of my marathon featured the premiere of Strauss' Salome in Leipzig, a work that I have supervised myself once. Knowing the piece quite well I might be very picky as well, but the performance in Leipzig was definitely no disappointment.
The production by Aron Stiehl is featuring the usual ideas that come with that piece, but does not really bring something new to the piece. Many things have already been done by other houses and there are definitely more differentiated productions. The stage and costumes by the artist rosalie (who sadly passed away recently) helped Stiehl's interpretation very much with the impressive setting and the extravagant costumes. The futuristic palace and its surrounding had some great details that supported the plot very well. I especially liked the extensive use of the staircases which created an interesting atmosphere.
Musically I was a bit disappointed by Ulf Schirmer that evening, because apart of the usual loudness of the orchestra I missed the diversity of colours and themes that are featured in this masterful score. Some parts of it seemed too unbalanced and the lack of clarity sometimes clouded the overall impression of the Gewandhausorchester. Once again the loudness also interfered with the musical lines so that the dramatic flow was disturbed by the sheer power of the orchestra. Sometimes less is more...
Most of the small roles were cast solidly with appropriate voices. The quintet of the jews could have been a bit more balanced, but everything worked out quite well anyway. Sandra Maxheimer gave a good performance as Page with a very youthful and soft mezzo voice. Sergei Pisarev as Narraboth was definitely one of the highlights of the evening. His beautiful bright and youthful tenor voice suited the role perfectly and he sang it with lovely passion and devotion. Quite a pity that he dies so early in the plot.
Karin Lovelius as Herodias also sang her role without any issues, but did not really seem to be absolutely comfortable with the role. Her outbreaks sometimes gave the impression that she was too busy doing everything the right way.
As her husband Herodes we heard Michael Weinius who was a bit disappointing in my opinion. Probably just because I was expecting more of him. His heroic tenor voice seemed not flexible enough at certain moments and like Lovelius he just gave the impression that this is not really his type of role.
Tuomas Pursio as Jochanaan also turned out to be rather problematic. While his baritone voice is easily heard through the orchestra, it tends to sound rather shaky at the top which leads to unreliable intonation. The pushed upper register also prevents proper phrasing and therefor I was not really pleased with his performance unfortunately.
The most awaited part of the performance was Elisabet Strid's debut in the title role. After her Siegfried Brünnhilde Salome seems to be a rather smart choice for a role, but ultimately she had to fight quite hard against Schirmer and his wall of sound. She managed the role without any problems, but I personally think that her voice is not flexible and agile enough for this role which calls for a very certain kind of voice. Surely, she did have all of the notes, but it simply did not go as easy as it should and so I was not as enchanted as I expected. Nevertheless she did a good job and definitely celebrated a great success.
After the pretty loud Arabella the night before I think that Salome could have been a bit more sophisticated. In the end it was a pleasing night that had no great issues, but also no real surprises or exceptional performances. Therefor 8 stars seem to be appropriate for a high level performance that could have been better.
Reviewed by Daniel Url

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