Thursday, October 29, 2009

SFO: Salome

San Francisco Opera
War Memorial Opera House
27 Oct 2009 8pm

Salome: Nadja Michael
Herodias: Irina Mishura
Herod: Kim Begley
Jokanaan: Greer Grimsley
Narraboth: Garrett Sorenson
A page: Elizabeth DeShong
First Jew: Beau Gibson
Second Jew: Robert MacNeil
Third Jew: Matthew O’Neill
Fourth Jew: Corey Bix
Fifth Jew: Jeremy Milner
First Soldier: Andrew Funk
Second Soldier: Bojan Knezevic
First Nazarene: Julien Robbins
Second Nazarene: Austin Kness
Cappodocian: Kenneth Kellogg
Slave: Renée Tatum

Conductor: Nicola Luisotti
Director: Seán Curran

As if the on-stage spectacle of Salome isn’t grisly enough, the audience at the opera house is currently greeted by a lobby display containing Jokanaan’s severed head. It’s quite suitable for Halloween, even though Daughter of the Regiment is being presented that evening instead. After having already seen the staging at the dress rehearsal, I took in this performance mostly sitting against the wall in the upstairs standing room. I don’t see anything, but I discovered that even without the staging, this opera is quite disturbing.

I am still impressed by the strong casting in all the roles. Greer Grimsley’s Jokanaan is powerful & full of conviction, whether he is singing on stage or off. Garrett Sorenson as Narraboth & Elizabeth DeShong as the Page both give solid & urgent performances. Kim Begley’s voice is clear & ringing & his Herod appropriately slimy. Irina Mishura’s every utterance as Heroidas was filled with venom, & she was quite scary at moments when she dropped into spitefully declaiming her lines or laughing in mockery. Nadja Michael’s acting is frighteningly convincing, both vocally & physically, though I still have the suspicion that she only approximates a lot of the pitches. She makes a strong sound that is even throughout her range, & I find it in no way harsh or strident.

I also enjoyed being able to focus on the playing of the orchestra. There were many fine moments from the flute, contrabassoon & trumpet. The double bass improved greatly from the dress rehearsal in those sickly harmonics that accompany the execution of Jokanaan. I liked the little slide the violins did in the Dance of the 7 Veils. Luisotti does a good job making all the discordant sections of the music into one continuous, almost impressionistic, flow. A very successful effort all around, of this most sickening of operas.


Cindy Warner said...

Kim Begley said at the insight panel that head is usually somebody you know.

I looked for one in the opera gift shop.

Axel Feldheim said...

You are probably correct to observe that the opera gift shop has been quite negligent in not offering a Jokanaan head during the Halloween/Salome season.