Whenever I take the trouble to watch an opera, I am always just a little surprised each time, because I really enjoy it. Yet I have never considered myself an opera fan. It helps a great deal if I know what is going on, however. That means that in a theatre, if the opera is being sung in German or Italian, I need a really good synopsis or a translated libretto handy. How much better though, when there are subtitles!
Given that the acoustics in many of the theatres I have been to are not actually that good, and since the position (equates to the cost) of the seating can be critical in whether one gets to see everything that is going on, I am becoming a fan of watching filmed live performances at home on my large screen TV. The few I have caught lately have been most satisfying. I really should pay more attention to what is coming up.
Quite by chance today I turned on the telly to see what might be showing. It is a hot day, and I decided to retreat to the lounge, turn on the air-con, and watch a Blu-ray. Before I chose from my small library (though I knew I would probably pick John Carter again – escapism!) I checked to see what was showing on the fourteen channels of shit on the TV to choose from.
I was immediately distressed that I had tuned in half way through a most interesting performance. I was entranced by Salomé. It is a one-act “music drama” by Richard Strauss based on the play by Oscar Wilde. The libretto is a German translation of the Wilde play by someone named Hedwig Lachmann. I enjoyed this performance so much that I now intend to track down a copy of the DVD for myself.
Nadja Michael – of whom I had not before heard, so uncultured am I – was awesome as Salomé. Awesome is not a word I use all that often because I prefer to keep it for describing things that do inspire awe. In this case, her voice, her expressions and her movements. This was a minimalist Royal Opera Covent Garden production made in 2007 with a curiously incongruous modern theme using somewhat Nazi- like uniforms and modern weaponry. I didn’t care much for the set or the theme, but they were of minimal importance. What was giving me goosebumps was the singing and the performance.
Everyone knows the story. Salome requests, as a reward for a bit of erotic dancing, the head of the prophet John the Baptist (Jokanaan) on a silver platter.
She gets her wish. And more.
I consulted my leather-bound 1973 reprint of the 1948 first collected edition of the works of Oscar Wilde, and was delighted to see the words I had just read in subtitle on TV. I am now going to do some more reading. It is great to rediscover something one had almost forgotten.