There was actual blood on the floor for the Salome at the San Francisco Opera. All we needed was for Salome to kneel down and take a lick and we were in a Warhol Dracula movie. Very creepy.
This woman, Nadja Michael, has already two videos you can buy of her performance as Salome. She was sick on Friday, but Gockley persuaded her to perform for the matinee on Sunday. I got the impression that she was struggling with her voice a little, but the over all effect was intense and stunning. If you want visible nudity, you will have to stick with the divinely fearless Maria Ewing, but for serious creepiness Nadja is your girl.
She is my second pushed up mezzo in a week, and this seems to be a workable trend. Remember Violetta Urmana was the first. Pushed up mezzo is far better that pushed down lyric soprano.
The production took a slightly different perspective from others. We are in a space away from Herod's banquet with Jokanaan's prison chamber at the rear instead of its usual position below the stage. The stage was filled with a large circle of light. The movement of the drama depends entirely on the singing actors to bring it too life. This is in sharp contrast to the busy, cluttered art deco stage used at the Met recently, which for me didn't work at all.
Big voices dominated: Nadja Michael has reserves of power. The Jokanaan of Greer Grimsley was a stunning blast of force, with just the right pomposity in the tone to create the feeling of a Biblical prophet. Irina Mishura as Herodias has a huge voice.
Kim Begley as Herod was just a senile old man infatuated with his step-daughter. Excellent.
This is a character drama, and it is the interplay of all these obsessed characters that makes it work as theater. Salome is obsessed with Jokanaan. Jokanaan is obsessed with God and the new messiah. Herod is obsessed with Salome. Herodias is obsessed with getting rid of Jokanaan. Naraboth is obsessed with Salome. All must make their impression to get the greatest effect.
It was all quite astounding and made my heart palpitate. Maestro Nicola Luisotti was our conductor.