Thursday, April 07, 2016

Salome at the Deutsche Oper, Berlin

Conductor: Alain Altinoglu
Production: Claus Guth

Herodes:  Thomas Blondelle (tenor)
Herodias: Jeanne-Michèle Charbonnet (mezzo-soprano)
Salome: Allison Oakes (soprano)
Jochanaan: Michael Volle (baritone)
Narraboth: Attilio Glaser (tenor)

In case you hadn't noticed before, Salome is an abused child.  She is sexually obsessed because she has had sex since she was small.  My feeling is that this is absolutely so.  There are many things about this production that I could not explain, but one thing seemed clear--Herod is sexually obsessed with Salome.  You knew that.  His wife knows it.  Perhaps it is as I have long suspected, perhaps Herodias has suggested to Salome that Jochanaan would be better off dead.  Certainly she has told Salome that he is ranting about her.

Jochanaan arises from a pile of clothing on the floor wearing only underpants.  Blond girls of various ages come out and dress him.  I cannot explain the pile of clothing, but the young girls seem skilled at dressing an adult man. From years of practice, perhaps.  Salome begins in a nightgown and changes to a dress.  The other girls remain in their night gowns.  Clearly the girls represent Salome at various stages of her life.

At the end we are in a men's clothing store.  I have no idea why.  Clearly this is a regie opera.  For no reason that I could possibly explain I enjoyed this.  Strauss' Salome is generally about dancing, which here is only symbolic.  Be aware that there are virtually no opera singers who can both sing Salome and actually dance.  Our Salome danced with Herodes.  Perhaps that is why he liked it.

I have seen Alain Altinoglu before only with Jonas Kaufmann.  He conducted the Munich Manon Lescaut and the Met Werther.  He was excellent then and now.  The music was varied and interesting, expressing the changing atmosphere of the scenes as they progressed.

Alison Oakes seems a young woman, who nevertheless performed this difficult role well.  Of the others, I especially liked.Jeanne-Michèle Charbonnet.  For some reason there was a lot of twitching which appeared and disappeared.  Men from the ballet stood around and then twitched.  Jeanne-Michele twitched rather better than the others.  IMHO:

Salome normally builds to an overwhelming climax, one where you also feel that someone should kill Salome.  But in this production the perversity is blunted.  She does not actually kiss the head of Jochanaan, though she says she does.  She sings and then sort of wanders off.  They don't kill her.  The effect is unmelodramatic and seems more a successfully executed revenge on Herodes than an obsession.

Footnote:  Michael Volle was the Sachs in the wonderful Die Meistersinger I saw at Salzburg.

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