Lust, corruption, death: Just another day at the opera

On Tuesday night, from a not very handsome former home on Lambert Avenue in Palo Alto, came the sounds of beautiful, magnificent voices, singing Richard Strauss’s “Salome.”

The old building, right next to Gryphon Stringed Instruments, is the home of West Bay Opera, which has time and again proven to be a powerhouse, staging operas that are magnificent in every way.

This “Salome” is a co-production with Escenia Ensamble of Mexico City, and is directed by that company’s artistic director, Ragnar Conde, and conducted by West Bay Opera General Director José Luis Moscovich.

Conde and Moscovich have teamed before, including with the stunning staging of “Faust” in 2015, and this production promises to be, again, musically and visually stunning.

“The setting is a post-Trumpian dystopia,” reads a press release from the company. “The scorched and irradiated planet Earth, or whatever is left of it, as a consequence of the wanton blurring of moral and ethical limits of an irresponsible generation. Salome is the personification of the kind of self-entitled excess that can only spring forth from such decadence.”

It is the story of Herod Antipas, Tetrarch of Judea, who has the hots for his stepdaughter, Salome. Narraboth, captain of the guards, also has, uh, romantic yearnings for Salome. Salome, though, is only interested in Iokanaan the prophet, who will have nothing to do with her, and finds fault with pretty much everybody.

The opera is based on the French play “Salomé” by Oscar Wilde, which was translated into German by Hedwig Lachmann, then put into music and libretto by Strauss. It is a tale of lust, corruption, suicide and murder and includes a soprano stripping naked on stage and doing something perverted before being crushed to death by guards.

It was banned in some nations, including the United Kingdom, for many years because of all that, although these days it’s part of operatic repertoire worldwide.

Why stage it?

“I love the music,” said Moscovich during a break from rehearsal on Tuesday. “I love the opera. And I love a challenge.”

And, Moscovich said, it is completely “current story of corruption and the excess of power,” citing particularly President Donald Trump’s words about his daughter Ivanka: “If Ivanka weren’t my daughter, perhaps I would be dating her.”

On Tuesday, the rehearsal included tenor David Gustafson as Herod, in powerful voice and acting in a most dramatic fashion, begging Heather Green as Salome to have a drink with him, and to eat with him, but she is coldly uninterested. She only wants Jokanaan.

Finally, Herod asks her to dance for him, and she agrees, which leads to the famous “Dance of the Seven Veils.”

He promises her anything she wants, and what she wants is Jokanaan’s head, severed from his body.

It’s an amusing thrill to be at an opera rehearsal: West Bay Opera always brings in powerful, fabulous singers, but for rehearsal they are often just dressed in sweatshirts and exercise pants. It makes for ironic drama and comedy of its own.

Green has a beautiful, powerful voice, as does mezzo-soprano Michelle Rice as Herodias, wife

Source:: East Bay – Entertainment

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