Sunday, October 25, 2009

Den Kopf des Jokanaan

Contrary to my usual current practice - standing room - I bought a ticket to see Salome last night at San Francisco Opera, owing to a slightly sore ankle and the knowledge that I am standing through the sold-out Daughter of the Regiment today.

I thought the staging was fine and the sets and lighting okay; not problematic but not outstanding. Nothing struck me as very decadent about the court, so it was hard to tell just what bothered Jokanaan so much except, well, that business with Herodes, her first husband, and her second husband. Perhaps it was the general lack of on-stage dementia, except, of course, Salome herself.

I did not like Garrett Sorenson's Narraboth; he sobbed like Gigli and that's just wrong in Strauss, even if you're the Italian Singer in Rosenkavalier. I did like Elizabeth DeShong's Page. Irina Mishura sounded slightly blowsy from where I was sitting and I wish she'd been more physically crazed. She seemed too polite, even when urging Salome on late in the opera. Ildiko Komlosi in last year's Met broadcast was plenty nuts, or maybe it was that there were plenty of close-ups of her with a drink in her hand and a soused look on her face.

I've never much cared for Greer Grimsley: all that wool in his voice! He's like a latter-day Leonard Warren. Oh, maybe not that bad.

Nadja Michael was very effective physically, and definitely looks and moves like a dancer. But she seems to have been hired for her physical rather than vocal abilities, and she had serious vocal drawbacks. Sometimes I couldn't hear her; sometimes she couldn't hit the notes; her phrasing didn't have much insight or variety. I liked the staging of the dance very much.

Kim Begley was the best of the singers and as far as I'm concerned more or less stole the show, or would have if he'd been dancing instead of watching the dance. Weirdly, he is a dead ring for Paolo Gavanelli, but they're definitely not the same person.

The big problem of the night, really, was Luisotti. I don't care, much, that he drowned everyone out once in a while. He was so languid I felt like there was never much musical momentum or tension, no sense of the structure of the piece or of how the music hurtles toward destruction. He needs another year or two with the score - and maybe all the German music should still be conducted by The Donald.

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