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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Worth it for Malfitano's staggering performance alone!, 11 Dec. 2007
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This review is from: Salome [DVD] [2011] (DVD)
This is a theatre production which has been recorded on video tape live in the theatre - the reason I start with this is because very little has been done to cater for home viewing - the lighting is poor as it has not been reset for filming, they've just used the theatrical lighting. The video quality is generally poor, and there are very few close ups, lots of static camera views from the back of the auditorium. The staging is pretty dull, and certainly the first 10 minutes or so is dreadful, the singers just standing on stage, limp and facing the front, with no sense of the narrative unfolding around them. Just as I was despairing, Catherine Malfitano steps onto the stage and things begin to hot up pretty quickly from then on. From the outset she is obviously a mature singer, but manages to portray the teenage temptress with stunning conviction. The big confrontation between her and Simon Estes' towering Jokanaan sizzles, and as she barely leaves the stage for a moment she carries the momentum of this extraordinary piece to its gory conclusion. The supporting cast are good - Leonie Rysanek does the usual cariacture of Herodias, but Simon Estes gives a dignified but powerfully graceful Baptist. I've not been a great fan of Sinopoli's conducting, but I have to admit that here he does have a deftness of touch to carry this score through its great one-act arc. So certainly not the best production on DVD (try Malfitano in Luc Bondy's Covent Garden production, or Maria Ewing in Peter Hall's production) but worth it for Malfitano's staggering performance alone.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brutal, yet Mesmerising, 4 April 2007
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ziggy_fan (England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Salome [DVD] [2011] (DVD)
I found this performance very enjoyable, and also uncomfortable at the same time (pretty much as Wilde and later Strauss would have envisaged I'm guessing) and nearly as good as a live performance I saw with the Welsh National Opera performing in the mid-80s. The reasons I say nearly as good as the live is that a DVD can't beat actually being at the performance, but this came close. The staging is very good, the singing is spot on and Malfitano is great in the lead. Others to point out for excellence are the parts of Narraboth, sung beautifully especially at the very beginning of the piece, and of course Estes as Jochanaan. The sections towards the end with Salome's "soliloquy" to the head of Jochannan is very very cringe-worthy but like I said earlier, I am sure that is the intention of the piece, and hence the reaction from Herod at the very end! Sinopoli's conducting, goes without saying, is fantastic!
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Starts off badly but what a finish!, 7 Feb. 2012
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John Chandler (Melbourne, Australia) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Richard Strauss: Salome (Arthaus: 108037) [Blu-ray] [2012] [Region Free] (Blu-ray)
Having given the big thumbs down to the lamentable Göring Reichspalatz setting by McVicar, I thought at first we were in for more of the same, updated perhaps to a Ceausescu villa in Bucharest or more likely an earthquake wrecked palace of the Albanian tyrant Enver Hoxha! The opening scene and Salome's performance with squally highs and a definite wobble gave me bad feelings but this time the executioner had a jock! When Doris Soffel and then Kim Begley appeared however things changed dramatically. It hardly seemed like the same production. I have always hankered after Astrid Varnay as Herodias and fantastic as she was, Soffel turns on what must be the Herodias of all time. Herod is not far behind and inspired by them and the excellent band of Jews and Nazarenes, Salome moves up several gears and we get an absolutely thrilling second half with one of the most original dances and endings I have ever seen. For a lady into her fifties Angela Denoke does pretty well and certainly has kept herself in good shape. Her voice is not the best but all-in-all her performance was more than acceptable. Alan Held as Jokanaan sang brilliantly but I felt his make-up and acting was misdirected. There are no extras and no curtain calls, the right decision for this opera. I doubt I will watch my McVicar disc again but depite some reservations over the setting and Angela Denoke, this is a performance that deserves many repeats. It could have been better with a different staging and perhaps a different Salome but as of today this is by far the best overall Salome available on disc.
I am a traditionalist and that explains my reservations over the opening but when we got to the second half, nothing mattered anymore and I was bowled over by the performance.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting and musically powered production, 22 Feb. 2012
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Keris Nine - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Richard Strauss: Salome (Arthaus: 108037) [Blu-ray] [2012] [Region Free] (Blu-ray)
There's initially a sense of dislocation then when you view director Nikolaus Lehnhoff's 2011 production of Salome for Baden-Baden, as it has few of the superficial visual reference points that you would normally associate with its biblical Judean setting, and little even of the stylised imagery of moonlight nights and shadows of death suggested by a text derived from Oscar Wilde's beautifully decadent overwrought imagery. This version of Salome however is far from a straightforward biblical tale, but rather an expression of dark sexual pathology, of the fulfilment of dangerous desires, of obsession and lust, a lurid study of the power that those perverse drives confer on both the object and the subject of those desires and how it differentiates men and women.

The fractured, slightly titled landscape here in Salome then suggests a psychological imbalance, while the contrasts that are expressed in the music and the characters are reflected in the textures of the walls and floors of the unconventional stage arrangement, with a dark glossy reflective centre-stage surrounded by crumbling plaster, broken tiles and rotting whitewashed wooden panels. It's far from naturalistic, but then there's nothing naturalistic about the situation or Strauss' aggressive music that pushes the boundaries of the tonal system. That dark fascination of this 'Liebestod' situation and conflict is there in the orchestration, the composer scoring directly in response to the flow and the tone of Hedwig Lachmann's German translation of Wilde's drama, and the music is accordingly intense, intimate, perverse and disturbing, but with a romantic sweep that captures the grander epic nature of the lurid melodrama.

The approach to the tone of the drama and the music and how it is reflected is important, but equally as important is how it is interpreted. The cast assembled here for the Baden-Baden production deliver superb performances to match the attentive detail that is brought out of the score by the orchestra under Stefan Soltesz. Angela Denoke plays Salome as if she is in thrall to the bizarre situation and the potential that it suggests, and that suits the production perfectly. There's a rising intensity in the performance that is in line with the score and she seems to be attuned to the slightest variations of tone within it. Alan Held is a rather more animated Jochanaan than others I have seen, less mystical and more of a firebrand prophet, and that works well with the heightened aggression on display. In this respect, the head of Jochanaan possessed by Salome at the still shocking conclusion, is also one of the most frighteningly realistic I've ever seen in a production of this opera. Theatrical prosthetics have come a long way over the years.

The Blu-ray from Arthaus is of the usual exceptionally high standards. The image is crystal clear to catch the full lighting, colour and contrasts of the set. The audio tracks are PCM Stereo and DTS HD-Master Audio 5.0, breathtaking in High Definition clarity. This is really an amazing way to view and listen to this extraordinary work. The production, incidentally, is clearly a live performance, but there are no signs of an audience being present at the opening or close of this one-act opera - much like the Lehnhoff sister production of Elektra for Baden-Baden, already available on DVD. There are no extra features, but the booklet contains a good essay on the work, a full synopsis and notes on the production by the director. The disc is BD25, region-free, 1080i full-HD, subtitles are German, English, Italian, French, Spanish and Korean.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Well sung Salome, 26 Feb. 2013
All the productions of Salome that I have seen have problems with staging and this one is no different! In this case the problem is the production itself, the staging is just too distracting, all shiny black floors and modern dress, it doesn't quite fit, rather than adding to the drama it detracts! I also found it somewhat predictable, yes the story is based in Jewish history, but some of the characters are so stereotypical Jewish, with their frock coats, wide-brimmed hats and prayer shawls, as to almost make it condescending.
Angela Denoke gives a strong performance in the title role, she does over-act at times and some of her facial expressions are enough to make you laugh, but vocally she can't be faulted, and thankfully she has a couple more veils than Maria Ewing to remove! Kim Begley also gives a fine performance as Herodes, although he does remind me of a portly Robert Tear, and again he also tends to overact a little! Doris Soffel is a good Herodias, while Alan Held's portrayal of Johanaan just doesn't fit with the rest of the production, it's almost as the director, Nikolaus Lehnhoff, could not think what a modern clothes to dress him in, so reverted to a costume which would be suitable in a traditional rendition of the opera or play, well that is apart from his Mohican with a pony-tale!
So in many cases an odd production, but one which is really well sung, but looses out on the staging, it would not be my first choice for the opera on DVD, the problem is however, that I have not found my first choice yet, and this respect it comes first in the productions I have on DVD, but only for the singing!
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Richard Strauss: Salome (Arthaus: 108037) [Blu-ray] [2012] [Region Free]
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