Salome. A film produced by Götz Friedrich 1974. Cast: Teresa Stratas (Salome), Bernd Weikl (Jochanaan), Astrid Varnay (Herodias), Hans Beirer (Herodes). Conductor: Karl Böhm. More information here.
This studio production from 1974 was finally transferred to DVD last year.
Teresa Stratas, a high lyric soprano, who never performed Salome on stage, looks every inch the neurotic and in essence misguided princess capturing the essence of the part vocally and dramatically as well as hitting all the notes on pitch. Ultimately, however, Teresa Stratas´ Salome leaves me cold, despite the technical perfection and good looks. Her Salome is an ice princess, the voice is cold and piercing. But I do not get any glimpses of what lurks beneath the surface, whether that be touching or repulsive and she is never scary or eerie, qualities found in spades with as different interpreters as Ljuba Welitsch, Leonie Rysanek, Karita Mattila or Inga Nielsen.
Astrid Varnay is superb as the decaying Herodias - she almost goes over the edge as does Hans Beirer as Herodes. Varnay´s voice is in shatters, but her stage presence is terrifying, which is really what matters with this part. That the film dates from 1974 makes a slight dusty appearance unavoidable. Last, but not least superb playing by the Vienna Philharmonics conducted by the great Straussian Karl Böhm.
The sets realistically depicts the depravity of Herodes court around 30 BC and follows Strauss´ libretto closely.
Personally, I miss the intensity and energy of a live performance, and I find the lip synchronization rather irritating. Unfortunately none of the live Salome DVD´s available match this production in either conception or musical quality, which includes the Luc Bondy London ROH staging, which I simply find unengaging.
However, this may change when Jürgen Flimm´s Metropolitan Opera production with Karita Mattila hopefully becomes available.
Salome´s confrontation with Jochanaan:
The bottom line (scale of 1-5, 3=average):
Teresa Stratas: 4
Astrid Varnay: 5
Hans Beirer: 4
Karl Böhm: 4
Götz Friedrich´s concept: 4
Overall impression: 4