on June 13, 2007
It's high time this fabulous film of Salome became available on DVD and I'm ordering it as soon as it's available on July 7th. It's like diving into a feast of depravity. Teresa Stratas, who would never have been able to undertake this great role in a staged production in one evening, nevertheless creates a filmed Salome that is pretty close to the absolute ideal. Beautiful, sexy, and catlike, she brings the depraved Princess of Judea to life as no other. As noted earlier, she lacked the sheer vocal power to bring this opera to life in the theatre, but in a film, with microphones, she comes across with aces to spare. While she pretty much is the whole show, Astrid Varnay, herself a great artist, comes across as a beast-gorgon Herodias, whose own youthful sexual depravity now shows only in her distorted reptile-like face. Her voice is in tatters, but it matters little in a role like this. Her contribution to the success of this project is immeasurable. The color is vivid, the location shots realistic ------ and if I'm rambling on about this, it's only because it's all so scary and fun. Bohm was the greatest Strauss conductor of his time, and he brings the shattering music to the fore as only he could. Buy it!!!!!!!!!
Whether this is your first experience with Salome or if you are already a dyed-in-the-wool Strauss fan, this Salome is for you!
Why? As other reviews have mentioned, Teresa Stratas is beautiful and perfect for the role, and she remains totally involved in the action through the entire opera.
Also, Astrid Varnay is the quintessential Herodias, a "painted queen" who is desperately clinging to her control over her husband and will use anything--even her own daughter to manipulate the man. Her diabolical laughter resounds as pure evil.
Karl Bohm is the greatest Strauss conductor, and he shows it here, letting Strauss' chords rise just as powerfully as the composer would wish. Bernd Weikl's strong voice of a prophet is perfect for the role of Jochanaan, and his looks complement the descriptions that Salome makes of him.
But what really makes this Salome a "must" for you, is that this great one-act opera was produced as a film. This allows the camera to go in close on the players in this psychologically tormenting story. It actually helps us understand the interplay of all the characters as the camera watches their reaction to each other. Recordings, or even live on-stage performances do not allow you to watch some of the reactions that are so important in a psychological drama such as this.
Money was not spared in the costuming and staging, which let you feel as if you're looking right at the Judea of Herod's time.
The director (Gotz Friedrich) has also frequently placed Salome and her mother side-by-side, so that we can compare their reactions to Herod. It is a lesson in acting, to watch Herodias (Astrid Varnay) in her reactions to each sequence of Salome's dance. Even the shocking old queen can be shocked.
Yes, the "Dance of the Seven Veils" is perfect, but seeing Stratas lithely and gracefully moving around the stage is certainly just what Strauss intended for his prima donna, whom Herod calls "her mother's child."
At the end, we find that Herod, Herodias, and Salome all end up being deliciously repulsive, yet fascinating.
on August 6, 2007
Absolutely smashing! Apart from the great set design by Friedrich it is the casting that makes this production a masterpiece. While many have commented on the obvious excellence of the acting/singing performance of Stratas, I think Weikl makes a great Jochanaan - the voice, the presence, the look. Salome is right to be terrified of him, the references she makes to his pale body, his hair and then his mouth are all perfectly apt.
Herod is perfectly decadent while Herodias is a complete wreck of a woman, in essence everything is as it should be. Even Narroboth is spot on - he looks like the typical Roman fool ready to die on his own sword!
Stratas's acting is incredible. I have never seen anything like it in opera in fact. I almost wonder if she overdoes it and plays Salome as almost too human where in fact she might be interpreted as being colder, less prone to expressions and feelings of fear than she might outwardly, at times, profess. I think it may be a matter of taste though and I was perfectly happy with this expressive and nuanced performance.
This is among my very favourite opera dvds.
on June 4, 2007
This 1974 film version of Strauss' opera is a dream come true as far as being released on DVD. It is probably the best version there is, with all roles being ideally cast. Stratas will leave you cold - she is great singer and a fantastic actress.
on July 23, 2007
ATTENTION 'JUSTOLDBILL' ANKENBROCK -THE DVD 'MAHOGONNY' WITH STRATAS/VARNAY IS AVAILABLE IN THE MET'S JAMES LEVINE DVD PACKAGE: [...] - or may be available on amazon or elsewhere -
REVIEW: As previous reviewers have opined, this is a real sonic and visual treat. I have owned the Lazer Disc for 20 years, and never tire of it. It still looks good on my 56" JVC which converts all signals to 1080, and the digital sound shakes the house: wait for Johannan's retreat to the dungeon, after Salome's lascivious failed seduction - and the gate crashes down......Bernt Weikl is noble and shining, the Dance of the 7 Veils is convincingly danced by the slender and serpentine Stratas, who reveals all in the finale, and the final scene is mesmerizing and shocking. I have shown it to non-opera aficianados, and they are converted at once. Please somebody let me know if the DVD is video remastered and in widescreen, as this would be reason enough to buy again!
on September 10, 2008
I saw this production on TV many years ago and thought then that it was really good, I have now changed my mind, it is brilliant, although Teresa Stratas probably could not have sung the role on stage she excels here, her acting, dancing and singing is superb, is there any end to this womans talent? the rest of the cast is so well made that this is a masterpiece, the great Astrid Varnay is well cast here, vocally she is well past her prime but her experience in opera makes her the ideal Herodias. I have a number of performances with Stratas including Nedda and Violetta in La Traviata and she never puts a foot wrong no matter what she is doing. If you want Salome this has to be the only way to go. Brilliant, tense, sexy and overall frightening performance from Teresa Stratas, that is exactly what Salome should be. Karl Bohm's control of the orchestra is magnificent, but then this is the great Karl Bohm so you don't expect anything less.
on July 30, 2007
I agree with all the glowingly positive reviews about this DVD.
I just want to say that any CD or DVD that Teresa Stratas has recorded is worth studying deeply. She is an uncompromising artist and a total original. She was one of the first operas singers to act like an actor and sing like an opera singer. I know a lot of people talk about acting in opera, but what passed for acting in opera (even a generation ago)was mostly intellectual posing. Teresa Stratas is the predecessor to Karita Mattila who is a singer-actor of the highest order.
Tha name Teresa Stratas is synoymous with great artistry. Even when she fails she fails gloriously.
Astrid Varnay (who sings Herodias on this DVD) praised Stratas and her work on this Salome in her autobiography.
on June 9, 2007
I agree with Robert Petersen. I own the Laserdisc and have been awaiting this release. The production really captures the ghoulish, erotic neurosis of the opera. The acting is fabulous; so is the music. This is the one to get!
I'm not a fan of opera on film, as I often feel that there's too much of a disconnect between the recorded soundtrack and the singers' actions. (Basically, most opera singers are lousy lip-synchers.) But if any DVD were to change my mind, it would be this one, mostly because of the extraordinary performance of a young, stunningly beautiful Teresa Stratas. Her gradual decline from willful petulance into obsessed insanity is remarkably vivid and harrowing; this is the kind of intense and intelligent acting one expects from a Meryl Streep or Cate Blanchett. Add a voice that's vibrant, clear and passionate and the kind of sexy star-quality you associate with a Sophia Loren and you have what may be the most perfectly calibrated opera performance I've ever seen.
With the exception of Bernd Weikl's supremely wild and creepy Jochanaan, the rest of the cast isn't quite up to Ms. Stratas's standards. Yes, Astrid Varnay is a legendary talent, but I wish she and Hans Beirer weren't directed to be the comic relief. And they're terrible lip-synchers, so all my reservations about opera on film started to intrude as soon as they came on screen. Also, I thought that The Dance of the Seven Veils felt flat, with Stratas looking a little too much like Cousin It at the top of it. But these are minor reservations when stacked against her towering, magnificent performance. This is the best Salome -- and therefore "Salome" -- that you're ever likely to see. Ever. (Can you tell I liked it?)
on May 9, 2009
There may be better voices singing this role or that, but this is the defining visual record of Salome. Stratas' interpretation is brilliant. I just watched the YouTube video of the final moments: the camera inches from her face, glancing away for a bit of fine stage business by Herodias, then back -- tears streaming down my face. To understand Salome, we must feel some empathy for the title character. Stratas' Salome is not a monster; she is the demanding ego in each of us, given what she demands and not, it seems, careful enough what she wished for.
There, I took a breath. Varnay is nothing short of brilliant, giving depth to a role that could be a walk-on, and Riegel is a suitably disgusting Herod. The Jokanaan -- I can't even remember who he is -- is weak, the only complaint I have about the production. The film uses him well, but there is never a sense -- as there must be for the drama to work -- that he and Salome are evenly matched.
This film demonstrates that opera is ripe for CGI. Stratas could never have sung Salome on stage, and probably Monserrat Caballe never should have. Will it be in my lifetime, a film of Salome with Jon Vickers singing Herod, Welitsch Salome, Varnay or Rysanek Herodias, and Bryn Teufel as Jokanaan, while a delicate dark sylph mimes the title role? I hope so, but meantime, this recording will do just fine.
Circumstances gave me the opportunity to see the Berlin/Mafitano/Estes Salome on consecutive nights with this one last weekend, and if you are wavering between them, don't. The Berlin Mafitano is so inferior that the difference is laughable. It is, first of all, a videotape of a play performance, not a film. The Stratas production confines itself to the stage set, but it exploits the strengths of film brilliantly, with closeups (the shot of the tears streaming down Stratas' face toward the end of The Dance) and brilliantly composed shots like the one where Herodias slowly replaces Salome in the frame as the camera pans, montage to create excitement, and an arsenal of tools to make the never-convincing Dance appealing, artistic, and even vaguely erotic. In this production, you don't have to check the libretto to remember that Jokanaan seals his fate not by insulting Herodias but by repeating his hateful screed at Salome from inside the cistern. ("He didn't say your name, dear," Herod says to placate Herodias. That's because he isn't talking about Herodias any more; he's moved on to younger stuff.)
More than this, the Berlin Mafitano suffers from what I think of as the German aesthetic disease -- a love of depravity for its own sake. That element is welcome in Wilde's original, which is a nasty, leering, misogynistic bit of onanism best filmed by Ken Russell. Strauss and his librettist (Hedwig Lachmann) are not telling that simpleminded story. The Berlin aesthetic can't see past it. There is a deliberate shock element in the Berlin production, typified by the full beaver climax to The Dance (which is not so much a dance as a series of Freudian calisthetics, and six of the seven veils are big hankies hanging from Mafitano's leave-nothing-to-the-imagination dance smock). But the hits keep coming. The Kiss is a gross carp nuzzle. The production seems as set on revolting as a Penthouse Caligula.
But this is not a review of the Berlin production. There are now four or five DVD recording of Salome. If your interest is seeing an opera singer nekkid, go with the Maria Ewing. She's the weakest singer but the best dancer and convincingly youthful. (Or track down the Deidra Palmour clips on YouTube of a Florida production and settle for a G-string and the best choreography I've ever seen for The Dance.) If what you want is pictures to go with the music then frankly, you are out of luck. There is no video version to match the audio of Nilsson, Welitsch, Studer, Neilson, Rysanek, or Marton. The pictures in the Met/Mattila production are one of those what-were-they-thinking productions, in which the action takes place in 1930 on what seems to be a cruise ship; the Nadja Michael production is visually impressive but Michael's voice is not up to the demands of the role. All are videotaped productions, not films, and it shows.
Teresa Stratas did not have the Jagdpanzer voice of a Birgit Nilsson (the only recording I know of, with Georg Solti and, I think, Jon Vickers) that comes close to the queen of Salomes, Ljuba Welitsch -- still in print if you dig for it). But with the invisible breaks that film permits, Stratas stays at top form for her harrowing 90 minutes. And what is more, she is a fine actress. The Mafitano productions (there are actually two recordings, with the difference that Simon Estes sings Jokanaan in Berlin, Terfel in Covent Garden) are ham-fisted, from the abstract sets to the bug-eyed madness of Salome. The Berlin proceeds seemingly oblivious to the fact that they are performing in our laps: What are we to make of Salome's going on and on about Simon Estes 'ivory' skin? Did no one notice that in extreme closeup, Mafitano looks her age, not Salome's?
I've seen more productions of Salome than I can count, beginning (I think) with Dame Josephine Barstow and including a dozen unseen recordings. I can imagine a better production of Salome than the Stratas, but I doubt if I'll ever see one.