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DCist: 'Salome'

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See my review of Washington National Opera's production of Salome published at DCist today:

'Salome' Still Shocking (DCist, October 13):

Washington National Opera's new production of Salome shows that Richard Strauss's 1905 shocker can still pack a wallop. The Biblical story is probably familiar to most readers: John the Baptist is thrown in prison for preaching against Herod's licentious lifestyle. Salome dances for her lecherous stepfather, and in return, he gives her the prophet's head on a silver platter. What is likely much less familiar is the modern, psychologically astute form of the story in Strauss's German libretto, adapted from Oscar Wilde's scandalous play, which is centered on frustrated sexual desire as the primary motive for Salome's murderous obsession. On one hand, she is a spoiled girl used to getting her way; on the other, she entices Herod sexually and then kisses the severed head of the prophet who both fascinates and repulses her.

Deborah Voigt's company debut should have been a sensation, knowing her accomplishments in the role, including in concert with the National Symphony Orchestra in 2007. But while certainly good, her performance was not particularly incendiary or provocative, at least vocally. Much of the acting, as directed by Francesca Zambello, seemed random and aimless, with Salome moving around a mostly empty stage, lying down or running here or there for no apparent reason. The exception was the final scene with the head of John the Baptist, which was played sincerely as a passionate love scene, to chilling effect and quite befitting the carnal excesses of the score. She did perform the infamous Dance of the Seven Veils herself, stripping down to a body suit at the end, the possible embarrassment of this long scene mitigated by the presence of four attractive dancers accompanying her. [Continue reading]
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Thomas Hogglestock said...

I had a different take on J the B almost kissing Salome. I thought he was taunting/punishing her. He certainly seemed vengeful enough to want to see her punished.

Anonymous said...

Come on, the WNO has a new music director and nothing in your review about him?

Charles T. Downey said...

Yes, I managed inadvertently to delete from my review the couple sentences about the conducting and orchestra but didn't realize it until it was too late. Auguin was excellent, so careful with volume level for the singers, and the orchestra played beautifully.