RICHARD STRAUSS'S SALOME


LJUBA WELITSCH

CHRISTEL GOLTZ

LEONIE RYSANEK

ANJA SILJA


ASTRID VARNAY

INGE BORKH

MARIA CEBOTARI

NADJA MICHAEL

Strauss's Salome may seem quite tame by today's standards, but it stunned the musical world at the premiere December 9, 1905. The princess's lust for John the Baptist, combined with Strauss's sensuous music, the spectacle of Salome performing her infamous "Dance of the Seven Veils," then demanding the head of the Baptist as reward, was shocking, moral debasement.  When in the final scene, to Strauss' most sensuous music, Salome kisses the severed head of the Baptist in a spasm of unrequited passion, it was the final straw, scandalizing audiences as well as censors. However the opera since has enjoyed great success with audiences and now is standard repertory.

Salome requires a mammoth orchestra including 6 horns, 4 trumpets, 4 trombones, 2 harps, about 60 strings, rows of woodwinds, plus cameo appearances by harmonium and organ, although Strauss later on approved of a version with reduced orchestra for smaller opera houses. According to him, Salome should be sung by "a 16-year old princess with the voice of an Isolde," an impossible requirement. The role is taxing in the extreme with a relentlessly high tessitura, and while there are no high C's, there are many B-flats and B's, as well as two G-flats below middle C!  Salome has always attracted sopranos: what woman wouldn't like to be identified with the role of a beautiful young virgin?

Marie Wittich was sang the premiere in Dresden in 1905.  She found the opera "distasteful and obscene...I won't do it, I'm a decent woman."  Wittich allowed a ballerina to perform the infamous "Dance of the Seven Veils" at the premiere but later insisted on doing it herself— much to the embarrassment of Strauss, as Wittich was a large rather ungainly woman.

EARLY RECORDINGS

Just two years after the premiere, excerpts from Salome appeared on recordings.  In 1907 bits and pieces were recorded acoustically by Rudolf Berger, Baptist Hoffman and Friedrich Brodersen all as Jochanaan, all on single-sided ten-inch disks.  Ernst Kraus, who was the first Berlin Herod, also recorded two brief excerpts.  Emmy Destinn, who sang the first Berlin Salome, in 1907 recorded  two short excerpts  from Salome's apostrophe to Jochanaan, and two years later Johanna Gadski recorded a 1:34 snippet.  Göta Ljungberg, after singing Salome at Covent Garden in 1924, made a truncated recording of the finale and five years later recorded it again although this time not as severely cut. Oddly, two brief orchestral excerpts were recorded in 1933 conducted by Piero Coppola. Marjorie Lawrence recorded the final scene in French in 1934, and in 1943 Liselotte Enck recorded it in the original language.  In 1948 Christel Goltz appeared in a Dresden radio broadcast with Joseph Keilberth on the podium, recorded the entire opera for Decca/London in 1954 with Clemens Krauss conducting, and made her third recording in 1963 with Otmar Suitner conducting.  In 1952 Philips recorded a fine performance starring Walburga Wegner with Rudolf Moralt with the Vienna Symphony Orchestra (available briefly on CD in Philips' Opera Collector Limited Edition - 438 664).  Since that time there have been more about three dozen complete recordings, both commercial and pirated, and currently (2012) DVDs with Teresa Stratas, Maria Ewing, Karita Mattila, Angela Denoke, and two with Nadja Michael—plus a number of pirate videos you can find on the internet.


COMPLETE RECORDINGS OF SALOME
Listed are recordings of the opera with label information at the time of writing. Some of these have been deleted,
some reissued with different label information. Check AMAZON and the internet for current availability.


Studer/Sinopoli, 1990

Behrens/Karajan, 1977


Nilsson/Solti, 1961

 


Caballé/Leinsdorf, 1968

STRAUSS: Salome
Cheryl Studer (Salome); Leonie Rysanek (Herodias) Horst Heistermann (Herod); Bryn Terfel (Jochanaan); Clemens Bieber (Narraboth); Berlin Opera Orch/Giuseppe Sinopoli, cond.
DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON 431 810 (2 CDs) TT:  1 hr. 42 min.

Cheryl Studer is in top form on this DG recording -- highly impressive vocally and interpretively.  Her youthful sound and ease with the notes are commendable. Leonie Rysanek's Herodias is perfection; how strange it must have seemed to her singing the character of the mother of a character she herself had sung with enormous success.  Byrn Terfel's Jochanaan is a model of masculine power, with Horst Heistermann a fine Herod.  Giuseppe Sinopoli's direction is sensuous and assured if rather understated - from an orchestral standpoint all is pristine if rather unexciting. The recording has a spacious sound stage, with voices well-balanced.

STRAUSS: Salome
Hildegard Behrens (Salome); Agnes Baltsa (Herodias); Karl-Walter Böhm (Herod); José van Dan (Jochanaan); Wieslaw Ochman (Narraboth); Vienna Philharmonic Orch/Herbert von Karajan, cond.
EMI 49358 (2 CDs) TT:  1 hr. 45 min.

Given the manifold vocal problems of Hildegard Behrens (1937-2009) in the final years of her remarkable career,  it is refreshing to listen to her 1977 recording of Salome conducted by Herbert von Karajan, recorded just before that year's Salzburg Festival. At that time she was a shining star on the operatic horizon, magnificent in every way, with beauty of tone and sufficient power to sustain Karajan's leisurely tempi and be heard over the masses of orchestral opulence. This EMI recording has been reissued in the label's Great Recordings of the Century series (67159).  It surely should be in every Salome collection.  An aircheck of the 1977Salzburg broadcast is even more spectacular, with better sound to boot. Now that some  historic Salzburg performances are being reissued perhaps this will be among them -- we can hope.

STRAUSS: Salome
Birgit Nilsson (Salome); Grace Hoffman (Herodias); Gerhard Stolze (Herod); Eberhard Wachter (Jochanaan); Waldemar Kmentt (Narraboth); Vienna Philharmonic Orch/Sir Georg Solti, cond.
LONDON 414 414 (2 CDs) TT:  1 hr. 40 min.

Birgit Nilsson was famous for her powerhouse Salome, and the 1961 recording with Georg Solti and the Vienna Philharmonic remains stunning, although she's occasionally her pitch is suspect. When the grand Swedish soprano sings Salome this is no teenage girl.  Gerhard Stolze is a manaical Herod, Grade Hoffman a strong Herodias, with vivid Decca sonics.  Nilsson's live recording of 1965 from the Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires, with Georges Sébastien conducting and a strong supporting cast, shows the Swedish soprano at her very best, in superb stereo sound as well.

STRAUSS: Salome
Montserrat Caballé (Salome); Regina Resnik (Herodias); Sherrill Milnes (Jochanaan); Richard Lewis (Herod); James King (Narraboth); London Symphony Orch/Erich Leinsdorf, cond.
RCA 6644 (2 CDs) TT:  1 hr. 41 min.

Salome was one of Caballe's favorite roles, an unlikely choice considering her physical attributes but she surely has the required vocal quality for the role.  There are no problems whatever with the notes, and her silvery, controlled sound is near-perfect for the young Judean princess.  Here she is in her prime with a supporting cast that has not one weak member.  What a luxury to have Sherrill Milnes as the Baptist, Regina Resnik in one of her superb "queen" roles.  The London Symphony is at its best under Erich Leinsdorf's keen direction.  Recorded in Walthamstow Hall in London in 1968, the set was engineered by Robert Auger, a guarantee of sonic excellence, and produced by Richard Mohr.   Like most recordings of Salome, it is now out-of-print.  I'd surely like to hear it in a high-quality remastering.

Nielsen/Schonwandt, 1997

Huffstodt/Nagano, 1991

Welitsch/Reiner, 1949

Welitsch/Reiner, 1952

STRAUSS: Salome
Inga Nielsen (Salome); Anja Silja (Herodias); Robert Hale (Jochanaan); Reiner Goldberg (Herod); Deon van der Walt (Narraboth); Danish National Radio Symphony Orch/Michael Schonwandt, cond.
CHANDOS 9611 (2 CDs) TT:  l hr. 40 min.

This 1997 Salome is of considerable interest because of the title-role performance by Inga Nielsen, a young Danish soprano who appears regularly at the Vienna State Opera, La Scala, Covent Garden and other leading houses, as well as at festivals and on television. She is an impressive Salome. Her sound is appropriately youthful, she sings on pitch and develops characterization effectively. This is, indeed, an impressive performance. It seems obvious that Nielsen has studied Ljuba Welitsch's performance—although her voice doesn't have the personality of the Bulgarian dynamo. Aside from Nielsen, there is little to recommend except for the typical Chandos high quality sound. Reiner Goldberg's Herod is unevenly sung, not as disturbing as Anja Silja's Herodias. Silja was always an exciting if vocally deficient Salome decades ago.  It is true that Herodias is supposed to be an unpleasant, shrewish character, but Silja's incredible wobble is enough to, as they say, take the paint off the ceiling. Other notable Salomes of the past have switched from daughter to mother, notably Astrid Varnay and Leonie Rysanek, but they never exhibited the vocal distress displayed by Silja. Robert Hale's Jochanaan also is unsteady, far removed from the richness and security of Bryn Terfel, Sherrill Milnes and Eberhard Wachter in their recordings. 

STRAUSS: Salome
Karen Huffstodt (Salome); Helene Jossoud (Herodias); José van Dam (Jochanaan); Jean Dupouy (Herod); Jean-Luc Viala (Narraboth); Lyon Opera Orch/Kent Nagano, cond.
VIRGIN CLASSICS VCD 791477 (2 CDs) TT:  1 hr. 45 min.

Shortly after the German premiere, Strauss prepared a French version of Salome, necessitating a few changes in the music to accommodate Oscar Wilde's original text. This was premiered in 1907, but subsequent performances merely translated Hedwig Lachmann's German version with no changes in the score. Virgin Classics has recorded the original French version, and those who love the opera will find it fascinating. The performance is adequate although little more. Karen Hoffstodt's voice has neither the power or the stamina the role demands, and is sometimes off-pitch. Conductor Kent Nagano's concept of this volatile score is tame and leisurely when it should be dynamic and propulsive, and the live recording favors the voices. If you want to hear Salome in French, or at least a part of it, there's Marjorie Lawrence's superb 1934 recording of the final scene.


STRAUSS: Salome
Ljuba Welitsch (Salome); Kerstin Thorborg (Herodias); Herbert Janssen (Jochanaan); Frederick Jagel (Herod); Brian Sullivan (Narraboth); Metropolitan Opera Orch/Fritz Reiner (live Dec. 3, 1949)
GUILD 2230/31 (2 CDs) 2 hr. 36 min.
MELODRAM 27042 (2 CDs) TT:  1 hr. 34 min.

Ljuba Welitsch (Salome); Elisabeth Höngen (Herodias); Hans Hotter (Jochanaan); Set Svanholm (Herod); Brian Sullivan (Narraboth); Metropolitan Opera Orch/Fritz Reiner, cond. (live Jan. 10, 1952)
MYTO MCD 952.125 (2 CDs) TT:  l hr. 32 min.

Two distinctive, historic interpretations by the legendarty Bulgarian singer Ljuba Welitsch (1913 -1996), one far superior to the other. The 1949 performance, recorded Welitsch's first season at the Met, finds her giving 110% all the way.  The depraved/innocent sound is ever apparent, the bold thrusts of sound defy the score's difficulty. It is sad that Welitsch's voice had begun its deterioration by 1952—however she still is mightily impressive. In 1952 there sometimes is a chalky whiteness to her sound; it's not as easy as before—and in the final scene she anticipates the beat on the words, "Ah! Jokanaan, Jokanaan, du warst schön" (Ah! Jokanaan, thou wert fair"), makes a fine recovery, and is a bit off-pitch on  "Ich habe ihn geküst, deinen Mund" ("I have kissed thy mouth").  Supporting casts in both performances are strong and there is no question there is a Strauss master—Fritz Reiner—on the podium.  These sets represent the finest sound quality I've ever heard for both broadcasts. For the 1949 broadcast, best sound is on the GUILD release, which also contains Puccini's Gianni Schicchi from the same broadcst (REVIEW). The 1949 set is filled with excerpts from the January 6, 1951 performance of Don Giovanni (also conducted by Reiner) as well as excerpts from an Aida (conducted by Emil Cooper) from March 11, 1950.  The 1952 set offers a more extensive sampling from the 1950 Aida. If you have but one complete Welitsch Salome surely it should be the 1949—it is strange that considering the hundreds of performances she gave of the opera during her all-too-brief career more haven't shown up.  We can hope!




Rysanek/Böhm, 1972

Marton/Mehta, 1990

Borkh/Keilberth, 1951

Borkh/Mitropoulos, 1958

STRAUSS: Salome
Leonie Rysanek (Salome); Grace Hoffman (Herodias); Eberhard Waechter (Jochanaan); Hans Hopf (Herod); Waldemar Kmentt (Narraboth); Vienna State Opera Orch/Karl B­hm, cond. (live Dec. 22, 1972)
RCA 69430 (2 CDs) TT:  1 hr. 37 min.
OPERA D'ORO OPD 1165 (2 CDs) TT:  1 hr. 39 min.

December 22, 1972 was a special occasion for the Vienna State Opera, the first time their beloved Leonie Rysanek sang Richard Strauss' Salome.  She had just added it to her repertory,  sang it  in Munich, Athens, and several times  in New York at the Metropolitan Opera  in March of that year. I was fortunate to be in the audience for the first of  these Met performances, March 6, and it was an unforgettable event.  In addition to Rysanek's stunning performance, that occasion  was special for me as prior to the performance I met and had the opportunity to speak briefly with Ljuba Welitsch in the Met lobby. Welitsch, the definitive Salome of the 40s and early '50s, was in New York for cameo appearances  as the Duchess in Donizetti's Daughter of the Regiment. But back to Rysanek. Her  huge, secure voice filled the Met as it did the Vienna State Opera on this recording. With its predominantly high tessitura, the role of Salome is  ideal for Rysanek. One must stretch the imagination to believe that all this sound emanates from a 16-year old girl! She makes an attempt to scale down her voice during her initial scenes, but after that it is an all-stops-out performance, intense both dramatically and vocally. Just before the final scene, as the head of John the Baptist appears, there is a scream—no way to tell if it is Salome or Herodias, but it surely is effective. Rysanek leaves out three notes in the final scene. The text reads, "Ah! Ah!  Jochanaan....du warst schön" with the first exclamation a D# going up to an D, the second an F (beginning at 5:31 in track 4). These notes are omitted in all of Rysaneks recordings (all live), for whatever reason.

The Vienna State Opera surrounded Rysanek with their finest. As an ensemble this could not be bettered. The entire cast is splendid, and with Karl Böhm in the pit we have an abundance of Straussian opulence, the conductor doubtless grateful he had Rysanek rather than Gwyneth Jones as he endured a year earlier in the Philips Hamburg recording. The Vienna recording was made in fine stereo by Austrian Radio. Voices are a bit overly prominent but to most opera lovers that might be a plus.  Program notes are in German, English and French with a synopsis of the opera but no libretto. Opera d'Oro has released the same performance at budget price with limited notes, just about the same sound quality and with different trackings. The HRE label has an all-Strauss CD of Rysanek which includes the Salome finale which they identify as "Vienna 1971—Ferdinand Leitner, cond."  This could not be true, as the new RCA set from December 1972 is the first performance by the Vienna State Opera  with the famous soprano. Perhaps it was a touring opera company, or the date is incorrect?

STRAUSS: Salome
Eva Marton (Salome); Brigitte Fassbaender (Herodias); Bernd Weikl (Jochanaan); Heinz Zednik (Herod); Keith Lewis (Narraboth); Berlin Philharmonic Orch/Zubin Mehta, cond. (rec. Nov. 1990)
SONY CLASSICAL  S2K 46717 (2 CDs) TT:  1 hr. 39 min.

Eva Marton's voice, with its thick harsh edge, is not appropriate for Salome. She attempts, with moderate success, to scale down her sound in the first third of the opera - after that it's blast away.  Never is there any sensuous beauty, as there surely should be at least in the final scene when she sings of her love for the Baptist.  Marton probably would have made a fine Herodias.  Contributions of the remainder of the cast are average at best, particularly Weikl's lacklustre Jochanaan.  The only reason to have this recording is the Berlin Philharmonic, their only recording of the opera.  Consistently they play with remarkable virtuosity under Mehta's impassioned leadership.  Sony's recording, produced by Steven Epstein and Grace K. Row and engineered by Kevin Boutote, is superb.  Currently the set, like most recordings of the opera, is out-of-print.

STRAUSS: Salome
Inge Borkh (Salome); Irmgard Barth (Herodias); Hans Hotter (Jochanaan); Max Lorenz (Herod); Lorenz Fehenberger (Narraboth); Bavarian State Orch/Joseph Keilberth, cond. (live July 21, 1951)
ORFEO D'OR C 342 932 (2 CDs) TT:  1 hr. 39 min.

Inge Borkh (Salome); Blanche Thebom (Herodias); Mack Harrell (Jochanaan); Ramon Vinay (Herod); Giulio Gari (Narraboth); Metropolitan Opera Orch/Dimitri Mitropoulos, cond.
ARKADIA CDMP 459.3 (3 Cds) (also includes Elektra and finale of Salome with Christel Goltz)

The Orfeo d'Or performance was recorded more than a half-century ago in Munich, just two years after the composer's death and is of interest primarily for the magnificent Jochanaan of Hans Hotter who had sung the role many times with Strauss conducting.  Inge Borkh's voice never was really right for Salome, but she was a fine artist in command of the notes. She has plenty of power and is on-pitch, but in the 1951 performance there is a rapid narrow vibrato odd to hear.  Despite laudatory comments in the CD notes, Keilberth's Strauss isn't very exciting.  The mono sound is superb except for overly-prominent percussion.  Producers have provided only eight tracks for the entire opera.  This is a forgettable Salome.  

Things are quite different in the Met broadcast of 1958.  Borkh by this time had her interpretation finalized and doubtless was inspired by the dynamic conducting of Mitropoulos.  The supporting cast is quite superior to the 1951 performance, particularly Blanche Thebom's Herodias and Mark Harrell's Jochanaan.  This was an exciting afternoon at the Met with well-balanced mono broadcast sound.  The 3-CD set also contains Borkh's NYP/Mitropoulos Elektra from 1958,  and another Salome (from just before the "Dance of the Seven Veils" to the conclusion) with Christel Goltz, Vinay and Thebom, Mitropoulos conducting, a Met broadcast of 1955.  This is a fascinating Strauss set well worth owning in spite of production deficiencies (Thebom and Harrell's names spelled incorrectly; Paul Schoeffler is listed as Jochanaan in the 1955 Salome although he of course doesn't sing in the music included on the CD).  There are eighteen tracks for Borkh's Salome. Borkh  made two recordings of the final scene—in 1955 with Fritz Reiner and the Chicago Symphony, now reissued in RCA's "Living Stereo" series, which has magnificent recorded sound (three scenes from Elektra are also included on this superb CD), and a year later with Josef Krips and the Vienna Philharmonic.   



Silja/Kosler, 1965
|
Wegner/Moralt, 1952

Cebotari/Krauss, 1947

Caballé/Mehta, 1971

STRAUSS: Salome
Anja Silja (Salome); Astrid Varnay (Herodias); Eberhard Waechter (Jochanaan); Gerhard Stolze (Herod); Fritz Wunderlich (Narraboth); Vienna State Opera Orch/Zdenek Kosler (live Nov. 25, 1965)
MYTO MCD 001.212 (2 CDs) TT:  1 hr. 39 min.

Anja Silja (b. April 7, 1940) was at the beginning of her career when this was recorded.  She had made her debut (as Rosina in Barber of Seville) when only sixteen; in 1960 she made her Bayreuth debut as Senta in The Flying Dutchman remaining closely associated with the Bayreuth Festival, her career doubtless greatly assisted by her intimate relationship with Wieland Wagner. After his death she switched to roles in which her fine acting skills helped overcome her vocal deficiencies. Silja's voice, even early in her career, was rather ugly with a piercing, whitish tone, often with a wobble and occasional off-pitch singing, evident in this performance recorded in 1964 when she was only twenty-five. No question her characterization is strong and that the performance, in Wieland Wagner's stark black and white production, must have been quite exciting visually. As the Baptist's head appears we hear Herodias screaming and Herod sobbing hysterically—a terrific theatre effect. However there is an unintentionally comic effect at the climax of the opera. As Salome is being crushed by the soldiers' shields she emits a high, piercing "EEEEK!" just before the final chord. I find it quite funny.

Aside from Silja, this performance vocally is outstanding, particularly the Narraboth of Fritz Wunderlich and Eberhard Waechter's strong Jochanaan.  Sound quality is first-rate.  The second CD is filled out with finales of Salome sung by Astrid Varnay (1953), Inge Borkh (1952) and Ljuba Welitsch (1949).  All are quite superior to Silja.

STRAUSS: Salome
Walburga Wegner (Salome); Georgine von Milinkovic (Herodias); Josef Metternich (Jochanaan); László Szemere (Herod); Waldemar Kmentt (Narraboth); Vienna Symphony )Orch/Rudolf Moralt, cond.
PHILIPS 438 664 (2 CDs) TT:  l hr. 35 min.

This is a fascinating recording.  Walburga Wegner (b.1913 in Germany) made her debut as a soprano in the title role of Ariadne auf Naxos in 1946 and sang extensively in Vienna, Hamburg and La Scala.  At the Met she sang only one season (1951-52, Eva in Meistersinger, Chrysothemis in Elektra).  This Salome appears to be her only commercial recording (there is a live 1948 performance of excerpts from Fidelio available on Gephardt). Recorded in December 1952, this Salome is highly effective. Wegner's controlled, light voice, perhaps with the assistance of the microphones, conveys the character as, indeed, a young woman, something most sopranos cannot achieve. The supporting cast is splendid;  Szemere's declaration in the final scene "Sie ist ein Ungeheuer" ("She is monstrous") is superb. Philips mono recording is representative of their rich sound of the era. Now out-of-print, this set was issued on CD in the Philips Opera Collector Limited Edition.

STRAUSS: Salome
Maria Cebotari (Salome); Elisabeth Höngen (Herodias); Marko Ruthmüller (Jochanaan); Julius Patzak (Herod); Karl Friedrich (Narraboth); Vienna State Opera Orch/Clemens Krauss, cond. (live Covent Garden Sept. 30, 1947)
GEBHARDT JGCD 0011/2 TT:  l hr. 40 min.

This is superb! Maria Cebotari (1910-1949) was a famous singer of Mozart and Strauss during her tragically short lifetime, highly regarded by her colleagues. Lisa della Casa said of her, "...I was enthralled with her...she had a sort of gypsy-sounding voice, but very cultivated, and a timbre that once heard was never forgotten. The personality on the stage was there, but it was the instrument that counted...she had an Italian approach, full of warmth, and yet under perfect control." On this recording we have the Vienna State Opera's guest appearance at Covent Garden—and they brought their best. Cebotari had the misfortune of singing Salome at the same time as Ljuba Welitsch, but judging from what is heard on this live recording she was magnificent in the role. Cebotari's attention to high note values is extraordinary—nothing is glossed over in this dramatically convincing vocally assured performance. She is surrounded by a splendid cast, particularly H­ngen and Patzak (both identified in the skimpy CD notes as singing the role of  "Herodia"). This was six years before Patzak recorded his famous more frantic conception of Herod for Decca/London (also with the composer's close friend Clemens Krauss on the podium). 

Sonic quality of this recording is poor with much distortion. However, it is worth hearing for the superlative performance. Cebotari's Salome finale can also be heard in a 1943 recording on a Preiser CD (with an odd—but effective—quiet ending presumably the work of conductor Artur Rother), along with excerpts from Feuersnot, Der Rosenkavalier and Daphne as well as the seldom-heard Taillefer (90222).

STRAUSS: Salome
Montserrat Caballé (Salome); Beverly Wolff (Herodias);Siegmund Nimsgern (Jochanaan);Karlheinz Thiemann (Herod); Wieslaw Ochman (Narraboth); RAI Orch/Zubin Mehta, cond. (live June 15, 1971)
OPERA D'ORO OPD 1311 (2 CDs) TT:  1 hr. 35 min.

Recorded three years after the RCA set, this finds CaballČ, after a somewhat tentative start, in fine form vocally. No problems whatever with the notes, a convincing characterization and some glorious outpouring of the Spanish soprano's distinctive sound. There is much sensitivity in the final scene as Salome sings of her love for Jochannan, more interpretive leeway than in her commercial recording. The remainder of the cast is not up to her standard; the Italian Radio Orchestra is hard pressed to meet Mehta's demands. There's a brief synopsis of the opera, no information about any of the singers—but it is budget price and those who enjoy Salome probably will wish to own it.

 

Nilsson/Sebastian, 1962

Rysanek/Kempe, 1974

Goltz/Keilberth,1948

Varnay/Weigert, 1953

STRAUSS: Salome
Birgit Nilsson (Salome); Grace Hoffman (Herodias); Eberhard Wachter (Jochanaan); Fritz Uhl (Herod); Renato Sassola (Narraboth); Colón Theater Orch/Sebastian (live Sept. 21, 1965)
ORNAMENTI FE 117 (2 CDs) TT:  1 hr. 33 min.

This is one of a series of live recordings from Teatro Colón of Buenos Aires which acoustically is considered to be one of the finest opera halls of the world, even though it is quite large (capacity about 4,000).  The Opera opened in 1908 and over the years has had a brilliant history including performances conducted by Toscanini, many complete Ring cycles, first in 1922 with Weingartner, later with Klemperer, Reiner and Wallberg; Sir Thomas Beecham also conducted there often. Singers love to perform there including Birgit Nilsson who appeared there many times. This performance of Salome took place four years after her famous Decca recording with Solti. She is in better voice here than on the recording, tossing off this difficult music with reckless abandon and power. The entire cast is excellent with Fritz Uhl's Herod outstanding (Nilsson had recorded Isolde to Uhl's Tristan for Decca four years earlier). Sound is superb in this live recording—highly recommended.

STRAUSS: Salome
Leonie Rysanek (Salome); Ruth Hesse (Herodias); Thomas Stewart (Jochanaan); Jon Vickers (Herod); Horst Laubenthal (Narraboth); French National Orch/Rudolf Kempe, cond. (live July 14, 1974, Festival d'Orange)
GOLDEN MELODRAM GM 3.0047 (2 CDs) TT:  1 hr. 37 min.

Another stunning performance from Rysanek, two years after the Vienna State Opera live recording mentioned above. This is her definitive recorded Salome as she pours out an endless stream of spectacular, full-bodied sound. It is quite magnificent. Again Rysanek is surrounded by the best. Thomas Stewart's Jochanaan is imperious, an imposing figure indeed, and what a luxury to have Jon Vickers as Herod; no exaggerated histrionics here, just a believable, desperate monarch in an untenable situation. Kempe's Strauss may not be as dynamic as Reiner's or Mitroupoulous's, but it is totally satisfying. The French orchestra has a hefty Germanic sound under his baton and they play superbly. The stereo sound is fine, capturing Rysanek's huge voice to perfection. She occasionally seems a bit off mike; Narraboth as well is sometimes too distant, but these are minor reservations. Seventeen tracks are provided, no libretto.

STRAUSS: Salome
Christel Goltz (Salome); Inger KarČn (Herodias); Josef Herrmann (Jochanaan); Bernd Aldenhoff (Herodes); Rudolf Dittrich (Narraboth); Dresden State Orch/Joseph Keilberth, cond. (rec. 1948)
BERLIN CLASSICS BC 2062 (2 CDs) TT:  1 hr. 39 min.

Christel Goltz (1912-2008) made three commercial recordings of Salome I know of; this is her first—and finest. Her voice became more steely as she aged; here she is quite believable as the teen-age princess and at the height of her vocal powers. This surely is preferable to her 1964 recording also from Dresden, with Otmar Suitner on the podium (available on Berlin Classics 0091012BC), which orchestrally is superb, as is the supporting cast. It's unfortunate Suitner didn't conduct the earlier recording; Keilberth is quite staid. CD notes state that Goltz was "the greatest Salome of the century," an overstatement but there is no question that a Goltz performance was an overall event as her understanding of the role combined with her ideal figure must have created a stunning impression (she always did her own dance except at La Scala when Karajan insisted it be performed by a ballerina). The set includes a fascinating interview with the Goltz in which she mentions that in 1950 she sang Salome in Vienna with great success "to the chagrin of Ljuba Welitsch, a phenomenal Salome in her own right, but of a very different kind." And Welitsch was, indeed, "of a very different kind." The many vocal defects in most later Goltz performances were not to be heard. The only Goltz Salome that deserves a place in a collection is the first.

STRAUSS: Salome
Astrid Varnay (Salome); Margarete Klose (Herodias); Hans Braun (Jochanaan); Julius Patzak (Herodes); Hans Hopf (Narraboth; Bavarian Radio Orch/Hermann Weigert, cond. (rec. June 1953)
ORFEO D'OR C 503 002 (2 CDs) TT:  1 hr. 36 min.

BELLA VOCE 107.210 (2 CDs) (Also contains music from Elektra and Der Rosenkavalier and Strauss songs sung by Varnay as well as Strauss songs sung by Julius Patzak and Margarete Klose)

This is a studio recording made during Varnay's finest years. She had sung Salome for the first time in 1948 in Cincinnati and the next year, with Fritz Reiner and the New York Philharmonic, sang the final scene. Varnay was understudy for Welitsch at the Met that year and sang the role there for the first time Jan. 26, 1950. After Salomes at Covent Garden and Munich she switched to Elektra. It could well be that this recording was her final Salome—and she was excellent in the part, scaling her voice down in an appropriate way although her steely brilliance is more effective in Elektra than in Salome. With her trim figure, Varnay must have been quite stunning visually.  Her husband, Hermann Weigert, conducts in very subdued fashion. Julius Patzak's Herod is not as maniacal as in his Goltz/Krauss Decca recording the following year. Otherwise it's a fine performance in monophonic sound remarkably vivid for its time. Orfeo d'Or offers 13 cuing tracks.

The Bella Voce issue at budget price offers 32 tracks for Salome as well as 12 bonus tracks:  Varnay in excerpts from Elektra and Rosenkavalier plus two lieder, as well as six Strauss songs sung by Patzak with Richard Strauss and Clemens Krauss conducting, concluding with Geduld, Op. 10 No. 5 sung by Margarete Klose.  Quite a fascinating bonus, indeed! Some treasures here!

Bukovac/Wallberg, 1969

Jones/Böhm, 1970

Malfitano/Dohnányi.1994

Borkh/Schroder, 1952
STRAUSS: Salome
Paula Bukovac (Salome); Sigrid Kehl (Herodias); Heiner Horn (Jochanaan); Niels M­ller (Herod); RenË Kollo (Narraboth); Orch. of Gran Teatro La Fenice/ Heinz Wallberg, cond. (rec. live Feb, 1969).

MONDO MUSICA MFOH 10121 (2 CDs) 1 hr. 33 min.

This is a live performance from Venice Feb. 15, 1969.  Paula Bukovac has a somewhat youthful sound but sings with reckless abandon, slides into some high notes and there is little in her performance that commands positive attention. I've never heard of Bukovac before but a quick check on the internet shows she sang in the 1984 world premiere recording of Franz Hummel's opera König Ubu. The remainder of the cast for this Salome is adequate at best, orchestral playing tentative, Wallberg's conducting prosaic. Engineering is odd—during the final scene one can hear every last note played on the xylophone. The producers have provided no tracks whatever—if you're looking for a favorite section you'll have to fast forward—but considering the performance, it matters not. There are only a few seconds of applause included at the end, appropriately decidedly unenthusiastic.Don't even think about getting this!

STRAUSS: Salome
Gwyneth Jones (Salome); Mignon Dunn (Herodias); Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau (Jochanaan); Richard Cassilly (Herod); Wieslaw Ochmann (Narraboth); Hamburg State Opera Orch/Karl Bohm, cond.
DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON 445 319 (2 CDs) 1 hr. 37 min. (rec. 1971)

This supposedly is the first commercial "live" recording of Salome but actually it is taken from rehearsals as well as the live performance November 4, 1970. Gwyneth Jones, even this early in her career, had an edgy, squally voice (that got much worse as the years progressed); in this recording she is in better shape vocally in the first half of the opera than she is in the second. Dramatically she makes many points, but she is not easy on the ears. Fischer-Dieskau is miscast as Jochanaan; the remainder of the cast is fine. Böhm is surprisingly subdued in this reading, quite removed from the intensity of his live Vienna performance two years later with Rysanek (see above). Sonic quality is fine—but with Jones in the title role there is little point to own this recording.  The most commendable feature of this set is that there are 32 tracks. Here is yet another unmemorable Salome.

STRAUSS: Salome
Catherine Malfitano (Salome); Hanna Schwarz (Herodias); Byrn Terfel (Jochanaan); Kenneth Riegel (Herod); Kim Begley (Narraboth; Vienna Philharmonic Orch/Christoph von Dohnányi, cond.
LONDON 444 178 (2 CDs) (F) (DDD) TT:  1 hr. 40 min.

This recording has a lot going for it. Recorded in the "large hall" of the Vienna Concert House April 11-18, 1994, with producers Michael Woolcock and Christopher Pope and engineers James Lock and Jonathan Stokes, it gives listeners an incredibly detailed sonic picture of the VPO. Never before have I heard so much of the score, doubtless because in addition to the superb engineering, Dohnányi's balancing of orchestral textures is impeccable. Missing are passion and drive found in this music by Reiner, Solti, and Mitropoulos. Kenneth Riegel's Herod is remarkable and he is well-matched by Hanna Schwarz, a less-squally Herodias than usual. Bryn Terfel's Jochanaan is even better than his 1990 performance in the Sinopoli set (see above); a more magisterial, sensitive Baptist is not to be heard on records. Malfitano's Salome is an acquired taste.  She has all of the notes but a tendency towards shrillness; still she is superior to many others in the role.  There also are two videos of her performance in which she bares almost all. .

Norman/Ozawa, 1990


Bullock/Mackerras, 2008

Soloviy/Caldi, 2007

Djanel/Sanzogno, 1952

STRAUSS: Salome
Jessye Norman (Salome); Kerstin Witt (Herodias); James Morris (Jochanaan); Walter Raffeiner (Herod); Richard Leech (Narraboth); Dresden State Opera Orch/Seiji Ozawa, cond.
PHILIPS 432 153 (2 CDs) (D) TT:  1 hr. 43 min.

STRAUSS: Salome
Susan Bullock (Salome); Sally Burgess (Herodias); Jophn Graham-Hall (Herod); John Wegner (Jokanaan); Andrew Rees (Narraboth); Rebecca de Pont Davies (Page); Philharmonia Orch/Sir Charles Mackerras, cond.
CHANDOS CHAN 3157(2 CDs) TT: 61:39 & 52:40

Jessye Norman is an unlikely choice for Salome, but she turns out to be superb in the role. Her careful attention to phrasing and detail is very convincing, with a touch of coquetry, and her demands for Jochanaan's head appropriately increasing in fury. Norman's singing of the second exclamation "Ah!" in the final scene just before the words, "Jochanaan, du warst schön" (Jochanaan, thou wert fair!) is a desperately tragic, vulnerable sound, an effect unmatched by any other singer of the role. The highest notes aren't always as free as we would like, but overall this is a remarkable interpretation of a role Norman never performed on the stage. James Morris is a commanding Baptist, Walter Raffeiner highly impressive as Herod: the remainder of the cast admirable. Ozawa's conducting is low-key, tempi are on the leisurely side; even the "Dance of the Seven Veils" doesn't generate much excitement. From a sonic standpoint this is one of the top achievements of the late Volker Straus.

The only reason to own this Chandos issue is if you are curious to hear Salome sung in English. British soprano Susan Bullock (b. 1958) is featured, a poor choice. Bullock's career as a leading dramatic soprano of the era seems to be flourishing, but judging from this recording, one wonders why? .Her voice is big with an uneveness of production that hardly suggests the character of Salome; she sounds matronly rather than girlish. It doesn't matter if the supporting cast is strong, the orchestra and conductor totally up to their tasks, when the title role is compromised.

STRAUSS: Salome
Sofia Soloviy (Salome); Constantino Finucci (Jokanaan); Leonardo Gramegna (Herode); Francesco Scaini (Herodias); Vincenzo Maria Sarinelli (Narraboth; Francsaca De Giorgi (Page); Orchestra Internazionale d'Italia/Massimilliano Caldi, cond.
DYNAMICCDS 572/1-2 TT: 56:01 & 38:57

Dynamic's live recording of Salome was made July 2007 at Palazzo Ducale, Martina Franca. Sung in French, it features the young Ukrainian soprano Sofia Soloviy in the title role. She seems to specialize in Mozart and Rossini, but turns out to be a superb Salome, with an appropriately youthful yet powerful sound and easily handles the demanding role. Probably most of the other features singers will be new to most collectors, but all are outstanding, with the exception of Narraboth. Also of interest is the young conductor Massimiliano Caldi, currently principal guest conductor of the Silesian Philharmonic. He leads a dynamic performance—he is a conductor to watch—and the orchestra is superb. The stereo sound is satisfying, and there are many stage sounds which, in a way, add to the excitement. .Text is provided in French and English.

STRAUSS: Salome (sung in Italian)
Lily Djanel (Salome). Tito Gobbi (Jochanaan). Fiorenzo Tasso (Herodes). Maria Benedetti (Herodias). Angelo Mercuyriali (Narraboth). Maria TGeresa Massa-Ferraro (Page). Torino RAI Orch/Nino Sanzogno, cond.
MYTO 00301 (2 disks) TT: 51:51 & 77:59

Belgian soprano Lily Djanel (1909- ?) was famous in France for her Salome and sang one performance under the direction of the composer. She made her Met debut in January 1942 in Carmen with Sir Thomas Beecham conducting, singing the role more than 30 times at the Met. Her first Salome there was December 9, 1942 with George Szell making his Met debut, the first of seven performances of the opera. She also sang Giulietta in Hoffmann seven times, Santuzza and Venus one time each. Djanel is an impressive Salome, and it is fascinating to hear the opera sung in Italian. Another plus is a very young Tito Gobbi as Jochanaan. Sanzogno is a sensitive conductor, and audio quality is sufficient to convey the performance. Surely one of the most interesting Salomes! A considerable bonus is music of Mozart, Donizetti, Rossini, Mascagni, Cilea and Verdi featuring Tito Gobbi and soprano Rosanna Carteri in a concert from Milan December 24, 1956.Like Welitsch, Djanel was chosen by Strauss for a performance of Salome, and she also sang the role at the Met ; in 1942 she gave the first of six performances (George Szell made his Met debut on the occsion). Djanel made her Met debut as Carmen January 24, 1953 with Sir Thomas Beecham on the podium, which is available on CD. The French soprano sang more than thirty performances of Carmen, also appearing as Giulietta in Hoffman, and a single performance of Venus in Tannhäuser (along with Lauritz Melchior and Helen Traubel). Djanel was an attractive woman with, as one commenter mentioned, "a non-operatic figure." Her voice is totally secure and free from the stressed sound we hear so often on operatic stages today. Her Salome is totally convincing and unique in that it is sung in Italian—and what a pleasure it is to hear Tito Gobbi early in his career as Jochanaan. Check out this intriguing issue.

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Which recording to get? Of modern digital recordings at the top of the list probably the finest overall performance would be Cheryl Studer's, although it is somewhat tame compared with many historic performances. Some older non-digital stereo recordings are of greater interest as performances, particularly those by Leonie Rysanek live from the Vienna State Opera, and Hildegard Behrens with Karajan recorded just before the 1977 Salzburg Festival. In the "historic live" category is where we find the true treasures, particularly the 1949 Ljuba Welitsch Met performance, the Birgit Nilsson Buenos Aires of 1965, and Rysanek's blazing 1974 French Festival performance. And there are many "pirate" recordings available; check out PREMIERE OPERA Like Welitsch, Djanel was chosen by Strauss for a performance of Salome, and she also sang the role at the Met ; in 1942 she gave the first of six performances (George Szell made his Met debut on the occsion). Djanel made her Met debut as Carmen January 24, 1953 with Sir Thomas Beecham on the podium, which is available on CD. The French soprano sang more than thirty performances of Carmen, also appearing as Giulietta in Hoffman, and a single performance of Venus in Tannhäuser (along with Lauritz Melchior and Helen Traubel). Djanel was an attractive woman with, as one commenter mentioned, "a non-operatic figure." Her voice is totally secure and free from the stressed sound we hear so often on operatic stages today. Her Salome is totally convincing and unique in that it is sung in Italian—and what a pleasure it is to hear Tito Gobbi early in his career as Jochanaan. Check out this intriguing issue.

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EXCERPTS FROM SALOME

There have been many recordings of the final scene from Salome (occasionally abbreviated), including some by sopranos who recorded the entire opera. Most recordings of the final scene omit the brief passages for Herod and Herodias just before the conclusion; a few begin with the brief interlude as Salome hovers over the cistern awaiting her prize. Here are most of the recordings of the "final scene." Many of theseare out-of-print.

Susan B. Anthony, rec. 2001 (Slovak RSO/Anguélov) (Arte Nova 86894)

Josephine Bairstow, rec. 1989 (Scottish Opera Orch/Mauceri) (Decca 430203)

Inge Borkh,  rec.1955  (Chicago SO/Reiner) (RCA 68636)

Inge Borkh, rec.1956  (Vienna PO/Krips) (Preiser 90302)(also included in Vol. IV of London's Great Voices of the Past series - 448 153)

Christine Brewer, rec. 2010 (Atlanta Symphony Orch/ Runnicles) (Telarc 31755)

Montserrat Caballé, rec. 1977 (French National O/Bernstein) (DGG 431 171)

Maria Cebotari, rec. 1944 ) (Berlin Radio Symphony O/ Rother) (Preiser 90222)

Phyllis Curtin, rec. live1968 (no orch/cond. ID) (Vai Audio  VAIA 1152)

Emmy Destinn, two excerpts (1:45 & 2:00) rec. 1907 (Symposium 1283)

Jane Eaglen, rec. 1997 (Israel PO/Mehta) (Sony Classical SK 60042)

Liselotte Enck, rec. 1943 (Berlin State Opera Orch/ Heger) (Preiser 89950)

Johanna Gadski, 1:34 excerpt, rec. 1908 (Victor Orch/no conductor ID) (Club "99" 109)

Barbara Kemp, abbreviated (7:57), rec. 1921 (Berlin State Opera Orch/ Blech) (Preiser 89056)

Marjorie Lawrence (in French),  rec. 1934 (Pasdeloup Concert Orch/Piero Coppola) (Preiser 89011)

Göta Ljungberg, abbreviated (8:22), rec. 1929 (Berlin State Opera Orch/Blech) ) (Pearl 9257)

Alessandra Marc, rec.2000? (NDR-Sinfonieorchester Hamburg/Runnicles) (Apex  0927 41379)

Camilla Nyland, rec. 2011 (Tampere SO/Lintu) (Ondine 1168)

Rose Pauly, rec. live 1937 (NY Phil/Rodzinski)  (Eklipse 40)

Leontyne Price, Boston SO/Leinsdorf (rec.1973) (RCA 60398)

Leonie Rysanek, rec. live Vienna 1971 (Orch/Leitner) (HRE 1005)

Else Schulz, 34 min. of excerpts from two 1942 performances at the Vienna State Opera with Strauss conducting (Koch Schwaan 1453)

Anja Silja, rec. 1972 (Vienna Philharmonic Orch/Dohnanyi) (Decca 458250)

Nina Stemme, rec. 2008. (Royal Opera House Orch/Pappano) (EMI 78797)

Julia Varady, rec. 1999, Bamberg SO/Fischer-Dieskau (Orfeo C 511 991).

Deborah Voight, rerc. 2003 (Bavarian Radio Symphony Orch/Armstrong) (EMI 67581)

Ljuba Welitsch, rec. 1949 (Met. Opera O/Reiner) (Sony Classical MH2K 62866) (Preiser 90476) 

Ljuba Welitsch, rec. live 1943 (Austrian Radio O/Matacic) (EMI CDH 610072)

Ljuba Welitsch, rec. 1948 (Vienna PO/Karajan) (incomplete) (EMI 66394).

Ljuba Welitsch, rec. 1951 (Vienna PO/Krauss) (incomplete) (YOUTUBE)

Outstanding among these are the acoustic snippets by Gadski and Destinn, the superb recordings by Barbara Kemp, Göta Ljungberg and Liselotte Enck (all truncated), and the remarkable French version with Marjorie Lawrence. Rose Pauly and Maria Cebotari are splendid. Of course the Else Schulz 1942 excerpts from a Vienna State Opera performance with Strauss conducting are of prime importance.  Phyllis Curtin's live 1968 recording is of great interest (she was a superb interpreter of the role, and looked the part), as is Leontyne Price's studio recording of music she often sang at concerts but never on stage. Of current sopranos, most impressive are Christine Brewer and Nina Stemme both of whom have big flexible voices that can negotiate the music. Deborah Voight's 2003 recording is admirable; her current performances disappoint. Julia Varady and ,Josephine Bairstow, will be remembered for their interpretations of this music. I've also heard a superb performance by Julia Migines issued on LP many years ago; there also exists a pirate live recording of the complete opera from Geneva about the same time (1983) that is commendable. American soprano Susan B. Anthony offers a superbly sung performance on her 2001Arte Nova issue. And, of course, the Ljuba Welitsch recordings are valuable—she was the definitive Salome. It is unfortunate that the 1948 Karajan recording is not complete—one of the 4 78 rpm disks apparently was broken, but we should be thankful for what we have.

And, saving the very best for last, the operatic world is indebted to "alvianosalvago" who has uploaded on YouTube the finest performance you will ever hear of the final 10 minutes of the opera, with Welitsch, the Vienna Philharmonic and Clemans Krauss. The tempo is slow, bringing out all of the erotic sensuousness of the score, and Welitsch is SPECTACULAR. This seems to be from a live studio broadcast recording—let us hope the entire performance will eventually appear. In the meantime, don't miss it. It is audio only in quite good sound, and on-screen we see several photos of Welitsch as Salome. YOU TUBE WELITSCH 1951 SALOME

 


SALOME ON DVD

Karita Mattila, 2008
Teresa Stratas, 1974
Nadja Michael, 2007
Nadja Michael, 2008

STRAUSS: Salome
Karita Mattila (Salome); Joseph Kaiser (Narraboth); Juha Uusitalo (Jochanaan); Kim Begley (Herod); Ildikó Komlósi (Herodias); Metropolitan Opera Ballet, Chorus and Orch/Patrick Summers, cond.
METROPOLITAN OPERA DVD 80663 TT: 1 hr. 46 min.
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STRAUSS: Salome
Teresa Stratas (Salome); Astrid Varnay (Herodias); Bernd Weikl (Jochanaan); Hans Beirer (Herodes); Wieslaw Ochman (Narraboth); Hanna Schwarz (Page); Vienna Philharmonic Orch/Karl Böhm, cond.
DEUTSCHE GRAMOPHON DVD VIDEO 00440 073 4339 TT: 101 min.
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STRAUSS: Salome
Nadja Michael (Salome); Peter Brender (Herodes); Iris Vermillion (Herodias); Falk Struckmann (Jochanaan); Matthias Klink (Narraboth); Natela Nicoli (Page); La Scala Orch/Daniel Harding, cond.
TDK DVDVIDEO DVWW-OPSALOME TT: 108 min.

STRAUSS: Salome
Nadja Michael (Salome); Thomas Moser (Herodes); Michaela Schuster (Herodias); Michael Volle (Jochanaan); Joseph Kaiser (Narraboth); Daniela Sindram (Page); Royal Opera House Orch/Philippe Jordan, cond
OPUS ARTE DVD VIDEO OA 0996 TT: 118 min + 51 min. documentary
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All of these have been covered on this site: Mattila (REVIEW), Stratas (REVIEW), Michael La Scala (REVIEW), Michael Royal Opera (REVIEW). It is unfortunate Mattila and Michael weren't featured in productions that respected what Strauss wrote. If the four in this grouping, surely the Stratas is the one to own.



Denoke/Soltesz, 2011

Malfitano/Dohnanyi, 1994

Malfitano/Sinopoli, 1990

Ewing/Downes, 1992

STRAUSS: Salome
Angela Denoke (Salome); Doris Soffel (Herodias); Kim Begley (Herodes); Alan Held (Jochanaan); Marcel Reijans (Narraboth); Jurgita Adamonyté (Page); Berlin German Orch/Stefan Soltesz, cond.
ARTHAUS MUSIK DVD TT: 112 min.
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STRAUSS: Salome
Catherine Malfitano (Salome); Bryn Terfel (Jochanaan); Kenneth Riegel (Herod); Anja Silja (Herodias); Robert Gambill (Narraboth); Royal Opera House Orch/Christoph von Dohnanyi
DECCA DVD B 074105 TT: l:49
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STRAUSS: Salome
Catherine Malfitano (Salome); Leonie Rysanek (Klytämnestra); Simon Estes (Jochabnaan); Horst Heistermann (Narraboth); Berlin German Opera/Giuseppe Sinopoli, cond.
KULTUR VIDEO DVD 2851 TT: 109 min.
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STRAUSS: Salome
Maria Ewing (Salome); Michael Devlin (Jochanaan); Kenneth Riegel (*Herod); Gillian Knight (Herodias); Robin Leggate (Narraboth); Royal Opera House Orch/Edward Downes, cond.
KULTUR DVD VIDEO D 1494 TT: 103 min.
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The Denoke video has been mentioned on this site (REVIEW).

Of the two DVDs featuring Catherine Malfitano, the first surely is the best. She is a fine actress, presents an attractive figure and briefly shows all at the end of the Dance—but her voice is not suited for the role. I find it surprising that Opera Monthly in December 1991 reported Ljuba Welitsch told Malfitano "she was the best Salome." Welitsch was very kind! Supporting casts in both videos are superb, as are video and audio. There is a CD available of the later interpretation, mentioned earlier in this feature.

Detroit-born (1950) Maria Ewing has enjoyed a distinguished career in a wide variety of roles that include Mozart, Debussy, Bizet, Berg, and Shostakovich. She is best-known for her portrayal of Salome, which can be viewed on this DVD in a production from the Royal Opera House designed by John Bury and directed by Peter Hall, who at the time was married to Ewing. This is a sensible, beautiful and sensitivepresentation by all concerned, and the supporting cast is outstanding. Visually, Ewing is effective and her acting is responsive to the changing moods of the doomed princess. Her mouth is very large and we see much of it; the video director should not have exposed her to such scrutiny. And speaking of exposure, Ewing does a marvelous Dance, and at the end is totally nude before she tosses herself at Herod's feet. Unfortunately, Ewing's voice is severely taxed by the role of Salome. There are some effective moments, but this is not her role. Video is OK but not special, audio adequate stereo, but should have been better. DVD documentation is minimal, and refers to unidentified "special features" that don't seem to be on the disk. It would have been fascinating to see Mattila and Michael in productions that respected the composer's masterpiece, but so be it.

   

 

STRAUSS: Salome
Erika Sunnegardh (Salome). Mark S. Doss (Jochanaaan). Robert Brubaker (Herod). Dalia Schaechter (Herodias). Mark Milofer (Narraboth). Nora Sourouzian (Page). Teatro Commnale di Bologna Orch/ Nicola Luisaoffi, cond.
ARTHAUS MUSIK DVD TT: 109 min.
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STRAUSS: Salome
Montserrat Caballé (Salome); Horst Heistermann (Herod); Vera Baniewicz (Herodias); Bodo Brinkmann (Jokanaan); Hans Sojer (Narraboth); Liceu Grand Opera Orch/Uwe Mund, cond.
PREMIERE OPERA DVD 5365

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The role of Salome was a favorite of Montserrat Caballé, but visually she hardly represents the image of an attractive teenager. In this 1988 production from Liceo the problem is solved by a double cast—one singing, the other acting and dancing. The conductor is Uwe Mund, who is adequate but little more. Aside from Caballé, the singing is pretty bad. Hiestermann, Baniewicz and Brinkmann have uneven vocal production and are unable to sustain notes. However, the dancers are superb, particularly Darie Cardyn as Salome, an exquisite young lady indeed who performs the infamous Dance of the Seven Veils with unmitigated passion (she uses no veils as she dances; a slave instead holds the veils one by one in front of Herod who rips each in half). For most of the opera, Caballé appears on top of what seems to be a pile of rocks with her flowing gown covering most of it. Only before the final scene does she dismount, so to speak, and at one point she loses her balance but manages to get up. In the final minutes, she pounds on the plate on which Jokanaan's head is placed, breaking the plate, which seems rather odd. And at the end she is not crushed to death, another oddity in the staging/production. This Spanish TV presentation has subtitles in that language—and they are not optional. Picture quality is hazy, but good enough to convey the performance. Sound is unexceptional but good enough to let us hear what's going on. I found this to be a remarkable concept for the opera; it's unfortunate the singing, aside from Caballé, isn't better, but those who like this opera surely must investigate this video issue. It is available only from http://www.premiereopera.com

 

Many pirate, off-air performances of Salome are available. Many can be found on PREMIERE OPERA Approach with caution—many of them are updated productions that insult both the composer and the viewer, and video/audio quality often is poor. But there are many gems including a remarkable 1980 Tokyo performance by the Vienna State Opera conductred by Heinrich Hollreiser on tour in Japan in 1980. Video is awful, audio OK, there are subtitles in Japanese and there are no tracks—but this is apparetly the only video extant of Rysanek in this role.

LJUBA WELITSCH PHOTOS

After her sensational Met debut as Salome in 1949, Ljuba Welitsch went to famed photographer Philippe Halsman for a series of photos. On the left is a picture taken when she first arrived in the studio, doubtless the only photo of Salome in a fur coat and cap holding the head of John the Baptist. The next two photos are standard fort the role of Salome, although it is unlikely Welitsch ever performed the Dance of the Seven Veils with the heavy, ornate cape. On the far right is a photo from an unknown date showing Welitschj having a terrific time with male friends, with a rather subdued (and envious?) Maria Callas in the back.

R.E.B. (JJanuary 2015)