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Subject: Glimmerglass "Salome" (long)
From: "Stephen G. Landesman" <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:Stephen G. Landesman
Date:Wed, 26 Jul 2000 02:06:32 -0400
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Good evening,

For those interested, here's my take on the recent prima (Saturday, 
July 22) of the Glimmerglass "Salome." A few rough spots (infra) need 
ironing out, but on the whole it was a most satisfying performance:

Narraboth ..................... Eric Fennell*
A Page ......................... Sandra Piques Eddy*
First soldier ................... Andrew Funk
Second Soldier................ Thomas Goerz
Jokanaan ...................... Ned Barth
A Cappadocian ............... Gary Moss*
Salome ......................... Elizabeth Byrne
A slave ......................... Cynthia Mallard*
Herod .......................... Kenneth Riegel
Herodias ....................... Robynne Redmon
First Jew ....................... Harold Gray Meers*
Second Jew .................... Scott Ramsay*
Third Jew ...................... Paul Arthur Mow*
Fourth Jew ..................... Hugo A. Vera*
Fifth Jew ....................... Harold Wilson*
First Nazarene ................. Andrew Gangestad*
Second Nazarene .............. Gerald Frantzen*

* Young American Artist

conductor ....................... Stewart Robertson
director .......................... Leon Major
sets ............................... Andrew Jackness
costumes ........................ Jeff Harris
choreographer .................. Nicola Bowie


COOPERSTOWN - Coming so soon upon the heels of John Philip Sousa's 
frothy "Glass Blowers", Glimmerglass Opera's current production of 
"Salome" packs a wallop that is predictable. Nonetheless, this 
"Salome" is so forcefully sung and acted that despite a few minor 
flaws in Saturday's opening night performance, the overall effect is 
one of revisiting anew the shock and horror of Strauss' one-act music 
drama no matter how often one has seen or heard it.

Andrew Jackness' set has an almost Wieland Wagner simplicity -- a 
gray marbled floor raked down from a sea of Galilee lapping 
ceaselessly in a thin line at the rear of the stage that suggests the 
very edge of the world. Jokanaan's cistern is no elevated bronze 
grating but merely an unlipped hole in the otherwise smooth marble 
surface of Herod's terrace. No palm trees, no oriental couches and NO 
moon, whose repeated changing aspect was only suggested here by the 
altered reflections on an immense bronze coffered ceiling that 
glowered menacingly over the entire stage and the doors to Herod's 
palace. Johann Stegmeier has clad Herod's soldiers uniformly in gray 
tunics, puttees and sandals. Only gray turbans suggested a Middle 
Eastern ambiance.

Jeff Harris' lighting fill at the rear of the stage is dark enough to 
afford no more than outlines of soldiers, Jews and Nazarenes until 
they step into individual spots or the much brighter light that 
floods the front of the stage. This is an ingenious method of 
avoiding singer-clutter, but it clashes annoyingly with Leon Major's 
blocking in its execution. Too often the effect is uneven when 
singers, especially principals, move into the light, then momentarily 
retreat into the fill, alternately singing their lines both in and 
out of darkness.

An enlarged (but not as much as one might have expected) Glimmerglass 
orchestra under musical director Stewart Robertson gave an inspired 
reading of one of Strauss' most difficult scores. Initially, it 
tended to cover several of the voices, although the fine Narraboth of 
Eric Fennell sang his famous wistful opening line ("Wie schön ist 
Prinzessen Salome heute nacht") with outstanding clarity and German 
enunciated with speculation and love. Sandra Eddy was an unusually 
clear-voiced Page with whom Robynne Redmon, as Herod's wife, added a 
new dimension by indulging in some extra-marital lovemaking.

Strauss' delighful orchestral touches were given definition and 
emphasis: The fluttering, anxious woodwinds portraying the 
disputatious Jews (whose German was tentative at best) at Herod's 
banquet; the growing crescendo in brass that accompanied Jokanaan's 
ascent from the cistern; the orchestral interlude as Salome circled, 
then lurked in a leonine crouch above the cistern, listening for the 
executioner's blade to fall. Above all, the contrast joins between 
the more lyrical passages of Salome's music in the strings and the 
abrupt dissonant lurches in the brass and winds, was very nicely done.

Strauss' description (later reconsidered) of Salome as "a 16-year-old 
princess with the voice of an Isolde" puts an enormous demand on 
anyone attempting the role. Elizabeth Byrne -- here a shag-haired, 
post-modern Judaean princess clad in a simple white peignoir -- made 
few attempts to be exotic and seductively persuasive, either to 
Narraboth or Jokanaan. She was a foot-stamping, petulant teen-ager 
who wanted her way. Once accepted, this one-dimensional portrayal was 
nonetheless very powerfully performed. Her final attempt to stop 
Jokanaan by grabbing him andsubsequently being dragged for a few 
steps before he could disentangle himself and retreat to the cistern 
was splendidly done. And the sight of Byrne as child-woman curled 
fetally around the bloodied head of Jokanaan at the end was 
simultaneously touching and terrifying.

On opening night, Byrne's singing was initially uneven. More suited 
to spinto roles, the legato in several of her lyrical passages ("Du 
wirst das für mich tun, Narraboth") was somewhat strained without 
much chest support and she seemed a bit taxed in her first "Lass mich 
ihn küssen, deinen Munde." But her final apostrophe ("Ah! Ich habe 
deinen Mund geküsst, Jokanaan" was full-voiced, note-perfect and rich.

The Dance of the Seven Veils was static and not very effective 
choreography. There seemed little here to satisfy Herod save for his 
kneeling before her at the end and running his hand over her breasts 
and along her groin. Had her handmaidens been better integrated 
intothe dance, this significant interlude would have been more 
erotically inspired.

Baritone Ned Barth provided a fine account of the Baptist's music 
with a well-supported chest tone, but at times just a bit pinched 
above B. His description of the search for Jesus ("Geh', such' ihn 
...") was beautiful. Barth showed fine, impassioned acting with the 
suggestion that he was momentarily attracted to the princess.

At 62, Kenneth Riegel's portrayal of Herod continues to be exquisite 
and impeccable. From the outset, his performance provided the glue 
that bonded the final scenes into a perfect union. Riegel's every 
utterance, whether of lust or growing absent-mindedness ("Wass 
wünsche ich den?") was perfectly meshed into every movement he made. 
His mistaken anticipation of her reward ("Sie ist reizend, nicht?") 
was delivered with lip-smacking delight and perfect timing.

Timing, however, was what the Salome's death scene lacked. The 
coordination of guards poised to strike with spears and the immediate 
blackout accompanied by pounding chords from the pit needs a lot of 
polishing. A good show. Most of the rough spots will probablt be gone 
by the time most you see the show.

Anyone going to "Acis" this weekend?














--------------------------------------------
Stephen G. Landesman
[log in to unmask]
"Wann geht der naechste Schwan?"
---------------------------------------------

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