Review: Lise Davidsen Achieves Strauss’s Ideal in ‘Salome’

Review: Lise Davidsen Achieves Strauss’s Ideal in ‘Salome’

Richard Strauss’s standards for the perfect interpreter of his opera “Salome” have haunted the piece for the higher a part of a century: a “16-year-old princess with the voice of Isolde.”

As oxymorons go, it’s the operatic equal to Noam Chomsky’s well-known syntactic puzzle “Colorless inexperienced concepts sleep furiously.” Clear, easy, unattainable. And but right here is the 37-year-old Norwegian soprano Lise Davidsen, in the course of her function debut as Salome in Paris, launching her voice like a rocket that opens right into a parachute within the cavern of the Opéra Bastille.

With a youngster’s sly mockery of her mother and father and a blooming sexual awakening, Davidsen’s younger Judean princess, seen on Wednesday, step by step matured in coloration and quantity. But when she reached the decided outburst of “Gib mir den Kopf des Jochanaan!” (“Give me the top of John the Baptist!”), her high voice detonated with a power that despatched shock waves of youthful, shimmery sound reverberating equally in all instructions. She stepped into her 16-year-old Isolde, and held the viewers rapt for 20 extra minutes of epiphanic sumptuousness.

I had by no means made the connection between Salome’s ultimate scene and Isolde’s climactic Liebestod in Wagner’s “Tristan und Isolde.” Usually, they don’t sound alike. Opera followers typically attain for Strauss’s one-liner to explain a soprano with some mixture of the function’s magnificence, lyricism, youth and energy, however there’s an implicit compromise, a way that “that is as shut because it will get.” As Davidsen unleashed big arcs of exalting tone, although, her voice was delicate and heavy like thickly piled velvet; she reveled in Salome’s obsessive like to music of apotheosizing grandeur and purified her want of its murderous origins.

This revival of Lydia Steier’s disturbingly highly effective manufacturing gave Davidsen a profound context to discover her interpretation. Steier’s militarized hellscape felt each primitive and postapocalyptic. Violent orgies, stripped of formality, set the stage for gleeful sadism and leisure homicide. King Herod (Gerhard Siegel, a seasoned Wagnerian with technical safety and assured level) is styled as a wicked chieftain in black lace, dirty robes and a feathered headdress, and he presides over a ruling class that delights in bludgeoning and asphyxiating intercourse slaves. Their crimes are seen via a big glass window excessive above the stage. The Dance of the Seven Veils is a scene of rape. It would all be crass, it if weren’t for the craft of the staging’s detailed motion choreography.

The conductor, Mark Wigglesworth, dedicated unironically to the rating’s intense, rhapsodic magnificence. But he additionally, intriguingly, held again. Rather than lurch into sensationalistic dynamics and noxious fragrances, he led with composure. The opening clarinet snaked curiously up its bitonal scale. Jochanaan’s horns moved from wounded glory to defiant majesty. Romantic strings swooned as lurid woodwinds unfold a penetrating fragrance. Wigglesworth held these triangulated poles — dignity, romance, derangement — in an lively steadiness that allowed them to coexist or overtake each other in accordance with the drama.

Davidsen’s sensitively realized Salome developed each vocally and dramatically all through the opera’s uninterrupted hour and 45 minutes. Detached and dead behind the eyes, she rapidly escaped Herod’s debaucheries firstly. Initially, her encounter with Jochanaan had timbral innocence, even purity, as she furrowed her forehead like a stymied but peaceful youngster fairly than a dangerously petulant one. The tunnel imaginative and prescient of her royal entitlement, although, confirmed within the bloom of her high voice as she gave Jochanaan her identify, hinting on the raptures to be born from her single-minded longing. The change, aesthetic, sensual and eventually sexual, ended with Salome pleasuring herself atop his cistern, whereas Wigglesworth tapped into orchestral surges of want.

Critics have quibbled about Davidsen’s underpowered low register, however you can hear her experimenting with completely different methods, resembling a pointed tone, chest voice and a guttural high quality. A tiny, and fully pointless, contact of effortfulness entered her voice within the ultimate stretch.

Johan Reuter’s Jochanaan was strong and earthy, with a contact of tonal sourness, in his taunting revulsion towards Salome. Ekaterina Gubanova had a ball as a voluptuously matronly Herodias. The tenor Pavol Breslik was a hopeful Narraboth, and the bass Luke Stoker was an unusually shifting First Nazarene with a mellow, comforting timbre.

Hearing Davidsen’s first try at Strauss’s Judean princess, some viewers members will renew their clamoring for her to sing Wagner’s Irish one, Isolde. But they shouldn’t overlook what is correct in entrance of them: a Salome as Strauss meant.


Through May 28 on the Opéra Bastille, Paris;


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