death scene, sung with astounding control and as devastating as I’ve ever seen and heard it.
Emanuele D’Aguanno’s Alfredo (replacing Fabrizio Paesano) was nearly as convincing in the quieter passages—Alfredo’s Act 3 dream of leaving Paris hit the spot—but for the bigger guns of, for example, the Brindisi, his attractively baritonal tenor sounded subdued, with limited Italianate bravura. He looked good, though, took his injured machismo at Flora’s party in his stride, and was particularly pliant and touching in his duo with his father. The latter was played by Noel Bouley, whose forthright, bear-like portrayal was at odds with his beautifully tailored singing. The smaller roles were more easily submerged than usual, but included a vivid Flora from Emma Kerr, a solid Douphol from Nicholas Folwell, and a huge-voiced Dr Grenvil from Donald Thomson. Claire Barnett-Jones’s well-sung Annina was on stage much of the evening, as her mistress’s minder—in a telling directorial touch, she barred Flora from seeing Violetta for the last time.
The Glyndebourne Tour orchestra played exceptionally well for Christoph Altstaedt, who saturated the score with atmosphere. Instrumental colours were subtly filtered, in keeping with the production’s overall darkness, and, while he never let the pace slip, Altstaedt consistently made us aware of the music’s weight and tragedy. peter reed
Salome English National Opera at the London Coliseum, October 18 ENO’s new Salome launched a season in which the company would, in the artistic director Daniel Kramer’s words, ‘examine some of the patriarchal structures, relationships, and roles of masculinity within our society’. As far as operas go, that doesn’t rule out many. But a Salome that viewed those structures through female eyes—what on earth would that be like? That is what the Australian theatre director Adena Jacobs, making her UK operatic debut, took on with this production, with mixed success.
In Marg Howell’s designs, lit by Lucy Carter, it was certainly striking. In the first scene two bouncers (the Soldiers) stand guard with shotguns beside a red barrier rope, on an otherwise dark stage; above, we can just about see a naked woman shifting around in a glowing tank of water. Clearly, we are about to enter a very exclusive club in a violent land, one catering for specific tastes. Later scenes draw on tropes of stereotyped childish femininity—blood that is shocking pink, not red; swathes of fluffy-petalled flowers; high heels several sizes too big—to present arresting if jumbled imagery, most memorable of which has to be the headless pink furry pony that is dragged onto the stage to be disembowelled, spewing out red and pink blooms as its entrails. Later it provides a focus for some excess energy as Herod’s attendants quite literally flog a dead horse.
Everything here is fetish. Narraboth, of course, fetishizes Salome—he videos her encounter with Jokanaan, even as it causes him nervous collapse. Salome fetishizes Jokanaan’s mouth—he wears a contraption almost like a muzzle, with a camera strapped a few inches away from his lips, which projects a real-time close-up of his mouth onto the back wall throughout his scenes. Herod, wearing a grubby Father-Christmas-style coat over his underwear, fetishizes young blondes with long, ironed-straight hair—he surrounds himself with them at his court (albeit one fewer than he thinks: the only thing Salome reveals during her Dance is the cropped hair she’s hiding under her wig), and looking at Susan Bickley’s Herodias tells us that he married one of them, albeit a long time ago. And the audience? Well, we have a fetish too, don’t we: a crazed, lustful
Opera, December 2018