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Salome in Paris

Catherine Naglestad as Norma, photo by A.T. SchaeferThe revival of Lev Dodin's traditionalist production of Strauss's Salome closes next week at the Opéra national de Paris. Renaud Machart reviewed it (Hartmut Haenchen revivifie "Salomé", September 21) for Le Monde (my translation):

This staging by Lev Dodin was one of the successes of the Hugues Gall era at the Opéra de Paris in 2003. The absence of booing after the premiere of its revival, three years later, must be interpreted as a compliment: Dodin's reading simply follows the libretto's indications without transforming Richard Strauss's Salome into a peep show dancer or Jochanaan into an S&M leather freak.

On the other hand, the casting has been lowered a notch: Jane Henschel is hardly noteworthy as Herodias, and Evgeny Nikitin has a voice too light for the role of the irresistible prophet. Catherine Naglestad, as Salome, received an ovation from the audience, which hailed a beautiful performance in the role of the "sinful woman" -- as well as the fact that the American soprano had dared to end the famous Dance of the Seven Veils completely nude. Her voice carries well in the high range, but the projection lacks incisive power. One misses the erotic freshness of the voice (at the same time, less imperfect) of Karita Mattila in 2003.
The major attraction of this production was the chance to hear German conductor Hartmut Hänchen, formerly music director at De Nederlandse Opera in Amsterdam, make his debut at the Opéra de Paris. The orchestra has "rarely sounded so sumptuous," according to Machart.

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