Saturday, August 20, 2011

SLO Salome Review

You've  read all our pre-performance features, you've seen the pictures and read my immediate post-performance thoughts; now Hawk Liu shares his opinion on how the evening went yesterday:

R Strauss - Salome
Esplanade Theatre, Singapore
19 August 2011

Salome - Janice Watson
King Herod - Hubert Francis
Herodias - Bernadette Cullen
Jokanaan - Dawid Kimberg
Narraboth - Kota Murakami
Page - Anna Koor
First Jew - Melvin Tan
Second Jew - Raymond Lee Pei Khoon
Third Jew - Ruben Aldea
Fourth Jew - Antoine Garth
Fifth Jew - Brent Allcock
First Nazarene - Martin Ng
Second Nazarene - Reuben Lai
First Soldier - William Lim
Second Soldier - Huang Rong Hai
A Cappadocian - Martin Ng
A Slave Girl - Su Yi Wen

Director - Andrew Sinclair
Conductor - Peter Selwyn
Assistant Conductor - Timothy Carey
Set Designer - Justin Hill
Costume Designer - Phylia Poh
Lighting Designer - Lim Yu-Beng
Choreographer - Gani Karim

Review - by Hawk Liu

I like operas that jump straight into the action without a 'formal' overture and Salome is one of those. The music elements take one straight into the mood of the piece. The stage is quite bare except for the huge entrance to Joknaan's dungeon at stage right and a stark, giant palace entrance at stage left. The singers made very good use of the stage and all stage business was interesting to watch.

All the leads were vocally wonderful. Even every one of the smaller roles was in good voice. Salome had an even voice from top to bottom and enough stamina to spare for the whole opera and another one after that. It's a difficult role, demanding full acting abilities throughout. I did believe her when she repeatedly demanded Jokanaan's head on a platter. Herod was a delight to watch as it was quite a bit of an acting role and his diction was excellent, though that did interfere with a few high notes. Herodias was a solid mezzo throughout and did play her play well. Jokanaan had a reliable solid tone too. The thing that bothered me about Jokanaan was his appearance. I was too conscious of his wig, his make up and his costume as being less than real compared to the rest. All the other roles were taken well. The difficult mob scenes were strong and the first Jew (Melvin) did stand out in the aspect of acting.

A highlight was the dance of the 7 veils where six well defined, muscled, bare-chested male dancers came on and showed us how R Strauss' sexy music could be very sexy....anyway, my eyes were glued to my binoculars for a while and I didn't fall asleep....

The orchestra did a great job with the score. All the nuances were there and the music certainly true to the R Straussian style. However, there were quite a few moments where I truly, truly wish they would swell in volume WITH the singers and not OVER the singers.

The overall production was true to the spirit of the opera and one does go off feeling the music of Strauss in this idiomatic work. I am not quite sure if the head of Jokanaan shocked me as I expected it to, maybe if Salome were to make a bigger deal of reality of the blood being everywhere on her, it might make it more real for the audience.Nonetheless it was a really enjoyable performance, one that I would recommend readers to watch.

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