From last night’s la prima of Strauss’ Salome at Teatro alla Scala, the staging is basically the same as this DVD from a few years ago, which is the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden BBC filming that was conducted by Christoph von Dohnányi, and starred Catherine Malfitano as Salome, and Jochanaan as Bryn Terfel. It is also somewhat the same as the Salzburg Festival production from 1992, with a few modifications.
For those who are thinking of going: if you sit anywhere stage right for this production, you won’t see anything. I mean nothing. Bondy has implemented a very user-unfriendly, deep staging that left a few of OC’s friends from last night (who had very expensive palchi) very dissatisfied.
(Image of Bondy-directed Salome from the 15 euro production catalog.)
The scenery resembled an underground utility space evocative of the maze-like concrete structures that stretch under many USA colleges. Jochanaan’s cistern was a cavernous, menacing trench in the ground (heh: he was a cave troll), which was flanked by an angled ramp, where much of the action and flitting of Salome took place (she took a full roll down it during the Dance of the Seven Veils, wrapped like a mummy in a silver scarf, and shedding the layers as she tumbled downwards).
Nadja Michael's Salome adhered to her latest quotes and description from La Repubblica. She came across as an immature, annoying, spoiled sixteen-year old girl. Her swimmer’s form gave her an agile, toned, athletic edge, and she leapt around the stage as lithely as a gymnast. She commanded a full voice, with deafening passages that somehow even soared above Harding’s super-thunderous conducting. She rose to the demand of the incredibly difficult music, and was petit enough to be somatically-convincing of the part (at thirty-seven years, she is nevertheless petite and fresh-faced enough to pull-off a teenager). La Danza dei Sette Veli was choreographed by a ballerina, and retained that signature. The dance was difficult (and was lauded more for technique/skill rather than interpretation), and had so many opportunities for the soprano to stumble or falter, but she pulled it off wonderfully.
Jochanaan was Falk Struckmann, with a powerful voice, and a towering presence. The one thing lacking in this Salome was the complete absence of sexy. It just wasn’t there. The combination of cold blue lighting, with the rawk-hard body of Nadja Michael, and the fact that she remained covered in her diaphanous layers just didn’t bring tha passion. She had stated in that La Repubblica article, “La mia danza e' si piena di erotismo...” But I saw more erotic behavior on that C-SPAN Senate hearing on School Food Nutrition.
Harding was fluent, and purveyed a huge, distressing sound. The loggionisti lost their pewp during his curtain call, but he was well-deserving. Chilling at parts, especially during "Ah! Ich habe deinen Mund gekusst, Jochanann." He proficiently suffused the score with full expression during Salome’s delirious moments of joy, and then turned the sound absolutely chilly during moments of insanity. He was amazingly proficient.
And those “few egregious moments” yesterday?: As Herod's Jewish guests arrived in full white beards and tallitot, there were a few grumblings from the loggione, mine included. They were clearly arguing theology in an exaggerated debate, one even wielding a scrolled torah. Ok fine. whatevs. But what I don’t understand is this: at one point, there were a dozen Hassidim lined-up stage left, two rows deep, pressed against the wall, and praying/davening to mimic the Western Wall. F-wording F, what the hell was that all about?
The worst transgression? Later in action, when Salome demands the head of Jochanaan from Herodes, and he tries to placate her desire with the hidden jewels and riches of her mother, six of the Hassidum come out of the wings, acting in the background. They stand together, rending their hands in greedy desire, jostling each other, pointing insanely at the jewelry, and holding each other back from rushing to steal the tempting pile of jewels that Herodes slowly displays. lol greedy jews omg they want those emeralds so bad. I normally like Bondy, but in this production he came across as an a$$h0le, and I have no idea what would make anyone think different.
Nicely, the gore-factor wasn’t there either (OC isn’t a big fan), with Jochanaan’s head wrapped in a sparsely bloody white cloth. At the finale, Salome was squished to death by four riot gear cops with full-blown shields that crowded her. Like she stole a new dvd player in a riot or something and they caught her.
Oh noes. Opera Chic has just wandered into a wireless blindspo