[Met Performance] CID:295480
New Production
Salome {118} Metropolitan Opera House: 02/20/1989.

(Debuts: Bernard Fitch, Jürgen Rose, Byl Thompson
Review)


Metropolitan Opera House
February 20, 1989
New Production


SALOME {118}
R. Strauss-O. Wilde/Lachmann

Salome..................Eva Marton
Herod...................Richard Cassilly
Herodias................Helga Dernesch
Jochanaan...............Bernd Weikl
Narraboth...............Mark (W.) Baker
Page....................Brenda Boozer
Jew.....................James Courtney
Jew.....................Philip Creech
Jew.....................Bernard Fitch [Debut]
Jew.....................John Gilmore
Jew.....................Anthony Laciura
Nazarene................David Hamilton
Nazarene................Jan-Hendrik Rootering
Soldier.................Ara Berberian
Soldier.................Terry Cook
Cappadocian.............Philip Cokorinos
Slave...................Yun Deng
Executioner.............Byl Thompson [Debut]

Conductor...............Marek Janowski

Production..............Nikolaus Lehnhoff
Designer................Jürgen Rose [Debut]
Lighting designer.......Gil Wechsler

Production gift of the Annie Laurie Aitken Charitable Trust,
and The Eleanor Naylor Dana Charitable Trust

Salome received eight performances this season.

Review (via wire) of Frederick M. Winship for United Press International

Met's "Salome" puts sizzle in New York theater season

New York (UPI) - The Metropolitan Opera may have the best show in town with its new contemporized "Salome," a gory thriller with a gloriously sexy score. The production which opened Monday, the first of eight this season, milks the lurid Richard Strauss opera based on Oscar Wilde's novel for all it's worth. With the stupendous Eva Marton singing the title role, this is undoubtedly the Met's best "Salome" since Ljuba Welitsch scorched the scenery at the old Met Opera House in 1949.

Marton only recently added the role of the depraved Judaean princess who lusts after John the Baptist's head to her repertory. She is giving her first performances of the role here for West German director Nikolaus Lehnhoff, making his debut at the Met. Lehnhoff sees Salome in the light of the 20th century, rather than the time of Christ when Herod, Salome's stepfather, ruled Judea.

"Oscar Wilde used the biblical story to express the feeling of his time, the turn of this century, which had a climate of morbidity and decadence, a collapse of the old civilization," Lehnhoff said in an interview prior to [first] night. "Now we are at the end of our century and the climate is in many respects similar to that time, closer to apocalypse than ever before. You get this kind of Fellini feeling. The time is five minutes to midnight. The place could be Berlin in the 1920's or the Rainbow Room at Rockefeller Center in 1989. "Herod's court is a brutal world that considers profit, power and exploitation to be the meaning of life. Does that sound familiar?"

Lenhoff and his set and costume designer Jurgen Rose has placed the one-act opera in a grimy back courtyard of Herod's palace, raked at an angle that suggests a recent earthquake, snaked about with pipes, and littered with oil barrels. Glimpsed above, past the balcony of the two-level set, are the marble columns and the gilded murals of the palace interior where an orgy is in progress. Unlike other "Salome" productions, this one does not invite us to the party. We only get the spillover of the Herod family and their guests, garbed in Yves St. Laurent-inspired gowns and punk leather suits, who are fascinated by the rantings of Jochanaan (the Baptist) who is incarcerated in a subterranean prison.

Despite Jochanaan fulminations against the lecherous Herodias, Herod's wife and Salome's mother, Salome falls in love with Jochanaan, who rejects her and urges her to accept Christ as her savior. Salome's revenge is to win Jochanaan's head on a platter as a reward for dancing for her enamored stepfather. Herod, who believes Jochanaan is truly a holy man, resists Salome's demand, offering her any other reward she desires, but finally gives in. When he witnesses Salome's ecstatic seance with Jochanaan's head, ending with a kiss, he realizes that she is a mad monster and orders her crushed to death by the shields of palace guards. For some reason, Lenhoff eliminated the shield-crushing climax intended by Strauss, ending the opera with Herod shouting for the guards through a courtyard gate. It robs "Salome" of its final curtain punch but otherwise the production is as richly decadent as any fan of Ken Russell movies and Sidney Sheldon novels could wish.

Marton's dance of the seven veils may not be the essence of grace, but it has a certain Gypsy Rose Lee quality, since she begins by stripping off her elbow-length gloves and continues by removing overskirts until she gets down to a long satin nightgown that Welitsch, who stripped to her last diaphanous thread, would have abhorred. The Budapest-born dramatic soprano makes up for any terpsichorian lack with a sincerely felt characterization and the full benefit of the big, vital, splendidly flexible voice that has given her a virtual monopoly on one of opera's other great princess roles, Turandot. Her realization of Strauss' lurking melodic love-death theme in the final moments of the opera is as close to a musical orgasm as you get in opera.

Contributing to the effectiveness of this most sensational of music dramas is a fine cast headed by Richard Cassilly as the neurotic Herod, Helga Dernesch as a cooly elegant Herodias rather than the usual drunken nag, Mark Baker as Narraboth and last, but not least, Bernd Weikl of the clarion baritone voice as a towering Jochanaan. Conductor Marek Janowski gives a transcendant reading of Strauss' supernal score.

"Salome" will be broadcast nationally by Texaco-Metropolitan opera radio stations on March 11 at 3 p.m. EDT.



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