Salome, Royal Opera, Covent Garden, May 2012Posted on 1 June 2012
With superb vocal power and control from Angela Denoke as Salome, and thrilling sound from the orchestra under the direction of Andris Nelsons, it doesn’t get any better than this.
This was the second revival of David McVicar’s production, first seen in 2008, and Angela Denoke’s second turn at the title role, since her earlier appearance in 2010. As the opera progressed she only got better, and after Herod has offered her everything … ending in desperation with the veil of the Tabernacle, the final repeat of her demand, “Gib mir den Kopf des Jokanaan” (Give me the head of Jokanaan) was hugely powerful. After she gets the head, her voice blended most beautifully with the orchestra. Beauty and horror combine, and following her final words that the mystery of love is greater than the mystery of death she lies down with the head. Duncan Meadows as Naaman the executioner sits with his back to the horror being played out, but finally he turns … slowly … in disgust, and when Herod gives the command he breaks her neck.
There are some fine aspects to this production, and the blood is cleverly done. She first gets it on her dress by putting her arms round the executioner, but as she nurses the head there is more and more of it. And the moment when the prophet first comes out of the cistern, and is knocked over by one of the soldiers, is very well judged. But it is absurd the way one of the soldiers keeps aiming a rifle at him. He does this particularly when Jokanaan is trying to get away from Salome, yet no-one draws seems to care when she puts her head in his lap. Surely that is the moment of danger for the princess, if there is one. And should the gun go off when there is no immediate danger to Salome, the soldier is a dead man. Herod has given strict instructions the prophet is not to be harmed.
But the singing is glorious. Stig Andersen gave a wonderful portrayal of Herod, and he and Rosalind Plowright as Herodias were both excellent. Egils Silinš was a fine Jokanaan, his voice coming across very clearly when he’s in the cistern, though it seems to come from elsewhere. Will Hartman sang beautifully as Narraboth, but in this revival his death occurred quietly in the background, unlike the first revival, which was a pity. Scott Wilde and Alan Ewing both sang well as first and second soldier, Peter Bronder was superb as the first Jew, and Andrew Greenan came over well as the first Nazarene, describing the miracles of Jesus. It was a strong cast, working well as a team, and held together beautifully by Andris Nelsons, who drew enormous power and lyricism from the huge orchestra.
The lighting was brighter in this revival, which was good, but from the front of the Amphitheatre only the legs of the upstairs diners can be seen, and the backdrops to the dance are barely visible. But go for the music and the singing — they’re terrific.
Performances continue until June 16 — for details click here.
Amazing production, a wonderful treat for my wife’s birthday (only slightly spoiled by the visage of Nick Clegg’s head directly in front of me)!