Salome, Malmo Opera House, March 9th 2008
I honestly thought I´d missed my chances of ever experiencing Dame Gwyneth Jones live. Which is why I checked and double-checked the monitors outside the entrance of the Malmö Opera House yesterday evening to verify that she was indeed appearing as Herodias as scheduled before buying my ticket (more info on the production here).
The last I´ve heard Dame Gwyneth sing was an Otrud in Paris in 1996, which she honestly shouldn´t have done - the wobble in her voice was devastating and basically ruined this production for me despite the magnificent Elsa by Karita Mattila. However, this was not the case yesterday.
Dame Gwyneth performed Herodias´part with a combination of declamation and sprechgesang which suited the part just fine. And her acting..fascinating to see how her facial gestures and her way of attacking the notes are exactly the same as in her Brünnhilde in the Chéreau Bayreuth Ring almost 30 years ago - even at 71 her appearance is unique and easily distinguishable from other sopranos. One must wonder what she thought watching Finnish soprano Susanna Levonen singing the final scene - the torch has indeed passed on, but I´d still say Dame Gwyneth has twice the voice (judged by sheer volume) than Levonen, who did in fact make a very fine lyric Salome - she hit all the notes, acted well, but I couldn´t help missing a little more craziness from her. Despite her throwing basically all the furniture around in the Dance of the Seven Veils (the alternative to undressing, I suppose). It was just a little bit too nice, but she looked great.
Too nice, also adequately describes Stephen Langridge´s production- a brick house and a courtyard within concrete walls patrolled by guards - set in present day I suppose - with Herodes as a General and a very tender white-clad Jochanaan (well sung by Frederik Zetterström). Overall I missed a unifying concept from Langridge other than the obvious.
Adrian Müller conducted, with great sense for detail as well as for the Straussian orchestra sound. I seriously hope Stephen Langridge comes up with something more daring (read: interesting) for this summers new Otello production in Salzburg..