The Royal Opera’s uneven revival of Salome at Covent Backyard – Seen and Heard Worldwide

United KingdomUnited Kingdom R. Strauss, Salome: Soloists, Orchestra of the Royal Opera Home / Alexander Soddy (conductor). Royal Opera Home, London, 17.9.2022. (MB)

Thomas Atikins (Narraboth) © Tristram Kenton

Director – David McVicar
Revival director – Bárbara Lluch
Designs – Es Devlin
Lighting – Wolfgang Göbbel
Choreography, Motion – Andrew George
Revival choreography – Emily Piercy
Video – 59 Productions

Narraboth – Thomas Atkins
Web page of Herodias – Annika Schlicht
First Soldier – Simon Shibambu
Second Soldier – Simon Wilding
Jokanaan – Jordan Shanahan
Cappadocian – John Cunningham
Salome – Elena Stikhina
Slave – Sarah Dufresne
Herod – John Daszak
Herodias – Katarina Dalayman
First Jew – Paul Curievici
Second Jew – Michael J. Scott
Third Jew – Alde Corridor
Fourth Jew – Alasdair Elliott
Fifth Jew – Jeremy White
First Nazarene – James Platt
Second Nazarene – Chuma Sijeqa
Naaman – Duncan Meadows

This was a Salome greatest remembered for its singing, not less than as soon as past the absurdity of prefacing it with ‘God save the King’. (The manufacturing may need been tailored, I suppose, to have Herod come onstage to obtain his tribute, however that was to not be.) Stepping in for Malin Byström, Elena Stikhina acquitted herself very nicely within the title function, quick discover or not. One kind of has to forgive an absence of consonants on occasion on this function; as long as that might be agreed upon, this was an involving, more and more commanding efficiency, to which Stikhina clearly gave her all. Thomas Atkins’s heartfelt lyricism heightened reasonably than detracted from dramatic portrayal of Narraboth: one other particular spotlight. John Daszak and Katarina Dalayman satisfied as Herod and Herodias, each very a lot stage animals, although there have been occasions when insensitive conducting had one wrestle to listen to the latter’s phrases. Jordan Shanahan’s considerate Jokaanan had the nice advantage of main one to focus on phrases reasonably than aura, although I might not have minded somewhat extra within the latter sense too. A fantastic supporting forged, assembled from depth, was one other sign advantage; as, likely, was its route. For attempting to establish exactly who’s liable for what is commonly a idiot’s errand; opera is, or must be, a staff effort to which all contribute.

John Daszak (entrance centre, Herod) © Tristram Kenton

Sadly, in that respect, this efficiency was sorely let down by the conducting of Alexander Soddy. That facet of issues improved considerably, although even the ultimate scene turned out at greatest Kapellmeister-ish: an affordable sense of the way it ought to go, but little past. Earlier on, although, it was a miserable account, for which the orchestra ought to in all probability bear some accountability too. (Who is aware of, although, what havoc current ‘occasions’ might have wrought with rehearsal schedules?) The primary scene was in all places, stage and pit unsynchronised and suffering from stability points that marked your complete efficiency. Numerous orchestral traces went unheard, bludgeoned by shattering insensitivity. Even when collectively, Strauss appeared like a poor-to-stolid Wagner imitator, the phantasmagorical magic of his orchestration going for nothing in as non-transparent a studying of his music as I’ve ever heard. The aestheticism that marks not solely Salome’s subject material however the rating itself, Strauss’s Nietzscheanism triumphantly rejecting, even mocking, Wagner and Schopenhauer alike was disturbingly absent, changed not with an alternate view however merely an effort to progress from one bar to the following. Surprisingly pronounced bass traces neither grounded nor propelled the concord; they have been simply unusually pronounced. Some passages — not often something longer than that — have been higher, however actually this was taking part in unworthy of a significant worldwide home.

That aestheticism was, nonetheless, touched upon within the fourth revival of David McVicar’s manufacturing, right here renewed by Bárbara Llano. My response to McVicar’s staging has diversified through the years, more and more suspecting that its ‘home of horrors’ strategy threw too many baggage into the identical basket. Additionally it is, if we’re trustworthy, wanting somewhat drained by now. That mentioned, I used to be grateful not just for the sheer professionalism at work, however all of the extra so for concepts — my fault, I’m positive — that had barely registered with me beforehand. Gore remains to be current, most memorably within the bloodstained emergence of the bare executioner Naaman, contemporary from his deed. Whether or not one considers that gratuitous will in all probability stay a matter of style, however it appeared to me clear, certainly far clearer than earlier than, that this was a remark not solely on an interwar world of militarised, fascist violence, but in addition, extra importantly, on the hazards and joys of an aestheticism handed from Wilde to Strauss, by way of Pasolini’s Salò and Sade himself to McVicar and to us. Politics and aesthetics are to not be disentangled, nonetheless a lot characters onstage and viewers offstage may want them to be. Nor can we neglect the previous; a harrowing retelling of abuse in the course of the Dance of the Seven Veils makes that clear. There are likely classes to be discovered there, however nobody, least of all Salome, will accomplish that: itself, in fact, an vital additional lesson.

Mark Berry