Luc Bondy´s production of Salome has traveled around the world, and to be completely honest, I fail to fully understand why.
Luc Bondy intended to create a fin-de-siécle thriller cum family saga. To this end he applied a darkly expressionistic set mimicking the interior of a Victorian house only allowing for minimal lights to penetrate the french curtains. At one side a concrete ramp leads to Jochanaan´s basement as well as to the exterior. Thrown in are the odd few slaves. Salome´s tragedy is subsequently acted out around the dinner table in an interpretation of the work I simply do not find coherent.
Admittedly he is not helped by his Salome either. A signature role for Catherine Malfitano, I nevertheless find her Salome inadequate - vocally as well as dramatically. And vastly below the standard of her own previous DVD Salome from Berlin as well. Malfitano attacks the notes fearlessly and hits most of them as well, but the gleam, presence and character essential for a great Salome simply is not there. And a great actress she is not, in my opinion, though in fairness I should add that opinions on her Salome vary widely. Furthermore, a thrilling Salome depends on the chemistry between Salome and Jochanaan, which is simply not there.
Admittedly there is no better Jochanaan on DVD than Bryn Terfel. Nevertheless I do not think he is the truly great Jochanaan many have made him out to be. For the same reasons I do not think he is a great Wotan or a great Dutchman. Lack of majestic presence and commanding noble voice are some keywords. Not that Bryn Terfel´s voice is not both commanding, powerful and beautiful. It surely is. But his true strenght as a performer, in my opinion, lies in the edgier characterizations of less noble or haughty chatacters. As such he is a much better Leporello than Don Giovanni. And he would be among the truly greats as Alberich as well. His Johanaan has the presence of a nice fatherly priest as opposed to the commanding mysterious mytic. Nevertheless, his qualities place him vastly above virtually all his present, if not past, competitors in this, as in most of his other parts.
Kenneth Riegel and Anja Silja are both great as Herodes and Herodias. While Dohnanyi is by no means substandard, I miss sparkle and energy in a rather too anonymous performance.
Catherine Malfitano and Bryn Terfel in the confrontation between Salome and Jochanaan:
The bottom line (scale of 1-5, 3= average):
Catherine Malfitano: 2
Bryn Terfel: 4
Kenneth Riegel: 4
Anja Silja: 4
Luc Bondy´s production: 3
Overall impression: 3