R. STRAUSS: Salome (complete opera), Blu-ray (2014)

by | Jun 22, 2014 | DVD & Blu-ray Video Reviews

R. STRAUSS: Salome (complete opera), Blu-ray (2014)

Performers: Erika Sunnegardh (Salome)/Mark S. Doss (Jochanaan)/ Robert Brubaker (Herodes)/ Dalia Schaechter (Herodias)/Mark Milhofer (Narraboth)/ Nora Sourouzian (Page)/ Orch. of the Teatro Comunale di Bologna/ Nicola Luisotti
Director: Gabriele Lavia
Studio: ArtHaus Musik 108096 [Distr. by Naxos] (4/29/14)
Video: 1081i HD color for 16:9
Audio: PCM Stereo, DTS-HD MA 5.0
Subtitles: German, English, French, Italian, Korean, Spanish
No Region Code
Length: 109 minutes
Rating: ****

Like the headnote says, Salome is an opera still waiting for a really superb video performance as far as I am concerned. The sets are fine here—most of the terrain looking like an earthquake zone with uneven ground levels, and John the Baptist cast down into one of the fissures. It sounds sillier than it is—and it really isn’t, it’s just that descriptions don’t do it justice—and the whole, set in Richard Strauss’s own time period, is clothed with military costumes and Salome herself looking like she just came from a high-end cocktail party.

Vocally everything is pretty darned good—Erika Sunnegardh’s heroine is in fairly feisty shape, a nice lithe instrument that has no difficulties coping with the composer’s sometimes stretched demands, and her acting is good as well. What falters—as it does in nearly every performance—is the Dance of the Seven Veils. Most opera singers simply can’t dance, and the choreographers struggle to come up with something that doesn’t look downright stupid and non-alluring, especially where nudity is involved (as it is here, covered up quickly when the bottom drops). This isn’t bad, but Strauss must have had his tongue firmly in cheek when he came up with this one, and the length is something that cannot be dismissed easily as it really allows the dance to unfold layer by layer—so to speak.

We are fortunate that the two male leads, Mark Doss as the Baptist and Robert Brubaker as Herod, are substantially played yet not vocally cloying or dramatically superfluous. Both men have fine voices, sporting clarity and richness of tone, and the somewhat lesser part of Herodias is also sung with spirit and forthrightness by Dalia Schaechter.

It just occurs to me that I like this more than I thought.

Nonetheless, watching it definitely lessens the attraction, for reasons that perhaps I am not aware of just yet. But hearing it with the video turned off isn’t bad at all. Until I can come up with a better reason as to why this is, I guess I will just have to live with it. Probably because as good as the singing is, there is just something about the production as a whole that fails to deliver the huge “umph” that the score implies. The visuals are very good in hi-def, as is the sound, though the surround is not quite as focused as it could be. As is, not bad. Stay tuned.

—Steven Ritter

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