“When I looked at you, I heard secret music,” says Salome in her monologue to the severed head of John the Baptist. Richard Strauss’s opera trades in the unseeable and the unknowable—from the range of metaphors applied to the moon to the nearly impossible staging of a ten-minute striptease performed by a dramatic soprano—which makes it unusually well suited to concert presentation. Strauss’s high-octane, atmospheric music can seem all the more lurid and mysterious when its subjective visualization is left to the imagination. When the stage seems to agree with Herodias and show that the moon is, in fact, merely the moon, things are rather less interesting than the swirl of images in the orchestra.You can read the whole thing here. Stemme was magnificent and Welser-Möst disappointing. Do all the conductors now consider swiftness and textual transparency the absolute highest virtue (HIP birds coming home to roost?)? Or have I just overdosed on Fabio Luisi? I'd kind of like to hear someone try something dense and thick for a change. Stemme could certainly handle it. Most of my recent Salomes have been lyrics with ambition and I found a real dramatic voice refreshing, particularly Stemme, who is loud but at the same time still so nuanced. I am greatly looking forward to hearing her sing Brünnhilde this summer.
In Thursday night’s presentation by the Cleveland Orchestra at Carnegie Hall, these depths were reached only sporadically, and the performance served largely as a showcase for the stunning performance of Nina Stemme in the title role.
photo © Roger Mastroianni