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Deborah Voigt Unveils Her Salome in Washington

Debbie VoigtLeonard Slatkin has taken the NSO more to opera over the last years – a welcome trend in any case – and more so, still, when it means a Salome in Washington, with none less than Deborah Voigt in the title role and Alan Held as Jochanaan.

Ms. Voigt invariably drew all eyes upon entrance, given her well publicized and much commented-upon trajectory from Ariadne’s little black dress via gastric bypass to the recent unveiling of her Salome in Chicago. Now this much anticipated Salome has arrived in Washington (fully clad, of course) and Washingtonians were out in strong numbers to receive the spectacle.

They were not likely disappointed. Debbie Voigt , unlike some oversized colleagues of her, always had grace with which she moved about... now a (relatively) slender body further enables her (even if not much moving around was called for in this concert performance). Her voice is in good shape; an impressive, if modestly sized, instrument gladly heard. In the top range, she is unmissable – only in the middle range can she be lost and drowned out by the orchestra’s massive sound right behind her. With the requisite agility and reach, passion and aggression, this was lovely Strauss-singing, befitting an Elektra. Indeed, it was the bit of hardness of tone, a pointed rather than round quality, that kept it from being a distinct Salome-voice which demands all that and a youthful, innocent quality absent here. But this opera is not just about its protagonist – and the other singers next to Ms. Voigt shone, especially Alan Held. His Jochanaan was strong, clear, authoritative, and always audible above the orchestral forces. There was not a better singer on stage, Thursday night.

Other Reviews:

T. L. Ponick, So good, Strauss is seduced (Washington Times, January 20)

Tim Page, Voigt Delivers In the NSO's Stellar 'Salome' (Washington Post, January 19)

Tim Smith, Voigt sizzles in a hot 'Salome' (Baltimore Sun, January 20)

David Patrick Stearns, Deborah Voigt as Salome in D.C. (Philadelphia Inquirer, January 20)

Charles T. Downey, Deborah Voigt Behind the Veil (DCist, January 22)
Donald Litaker and Jane Henschel were wonderful as the depraved royal couple Herodes and Herodias. Their quarrels were so true to life (even if much of that compliment goes to Strauss) that people laughed in recognition of familiar domestic disputes. Character is much more than voice alone in these roles - Litaker and Henschel had both. Jason Collins’ clear and beautiful voice made his Narraboth most appealing, even if his German was not perfect. Jennifer Hines’ (Page) mezzo was pale in its deeper reaches but youthful, round, and bloomed pleasantly elsewhere.

Behind the singers, maestro Slatkin and the National Symphony Orchestra churned the lush score out with excellence, impressive brass work (scarcely a mistake and very expressive throughout). In combination with hearing the orchestra from the stage and not the pit, the Straussian orchestral genius was fully revealed and worth the price of admission alone. With the addition of Voigt and Held, this is a concert that ought not be missed by anyone whose pulse has a rhythm.

The National Symphony Orchestra's "Salome" will be repeated at 1:30PM today and 8PM Monday at the Kennedy Center in Washington. Information: 1-800-444-1324 or