Hardly the most appealing
opera, Salome, but one in which
the plot’s more repellent elements must
be portrayed in the full light of day
for full effectiveness. Its appeal relies
on its ability to shock, and much of
the fascination we feel is surely not
too far removed from that which makes
drivers slow down to ogle at road-traffic
Salome has fared
well on disc, with Solti (Decca) and
Sinopoli (DG) leading the field (see
Marc Bridle’s excellent survey .
). Mehta’s 1990 recording has a fair
smattering of star names, and one of
the World’s greatest orchestras. Yet
all does not gel, and the fault seems
to lie squarely at Zubin Mehta’s feet.
Generally in his work, he has a tendency
to carve his way through the music.
He conducts with little subtlety - garish
works such as Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade
therefore suit him well (as proven by
a Prom last year.
). There is more subtlety in Strauss’s
score than Mehta is willing to admit
to, and a good deal more raw emotion,
too. Try the Interlude (CD1, track 11)
which, while fairly manic, still has
a fair way to go in this direction.
The sad fact is that the final section
of the score (basically from after
the ‘Dance of the Seven Veils’) is the
best part of this performance, but one
has to wade through the rest of the
opera to get to it. Even then, it hardly
provides any competition from rivals
such as the well-established Solti (Decca)
or the Sinopoli (DG), one of that much-missed
conductor’s finest recordings. When
Strauss rather obviously portrays the
wind blowing in his tone-painting, the
thought that this is Mehta’s level is
well-nigh inescapable (CD 1, track 12,
around 12’30). The ‘Dance of the Seven
Veils’ is remarkably light to begin
with - a true dance, one might argue.
But a spot-lit recording and Mehta’s
achievement of only a fair head of steam
means that eroticism is firmly off the
menu. Only at the beginning of Salome’s
long scene (CD 2 track 6) does Mehta
maintain the dramatic undercurrent with
any real effectiveness.
Salome is the original
wild child. Not so Eva Marton, though,
who right from the start is too self-consciously
beautiful of voice. There is no doubting
Marton’s ability to negotiate difficult
lines and her repeated entreaties to
be presented with the head of Jokanaan
reveal that she can do fury, too.
A singer who seems
to grow into his part as the performance
progresses is Bernd Weikl, as Jokanaan.
The opening statements leave little
lasting impression, a real shame as
these are an intrinsic part of the ongoing
a singer with a wealth of experience,
portrays Herodias as a commanding and
over-bearing woman, memorably almost
using Sprachgesang on occasion.
She represents one of the few highlights
of this set. Heinz Zednik is a fussy,
almost Alberich-like Herodes, an interpretation
that works particularly well in the
passages immediately preceding the ‘Dance
of the Seven Veils’ - the intimation
of evil is well-projected. Immediately
thereafter, one can almost see Herodes
rubbing his hands in glee. Keith Lewis
is a lyrical Narraboth.
The BPO is a tremendous
vehicle to have at one’s disposal. A
pity Mehta is unable to capitalise fully
on his good fortune - there is little
sense of strain, all is almost too
easy; a pity also that the Sony recording
(Producer Steven Epstein) also fails
to show the orchestra in the best light.
True, this product is budget price.
Yet a work of the stature and significance
of Salome surely deserves better.
As usual with this series, documentation
is minimal, consisting of a brief synopsis
(very brief) and track-listing.