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Semiramide, Penelope and Salome in the not so distant future

I guess everybody knows by now that JDD had to pull out of the European dates of the Ariodante tour. But there will be plenty of JDD in London later this year, as Semiramide is finally taking place this November at ROH and she has two dates and a Masterclass scheduled at Wiggy at the end of that production.

ROH returns to the Roundhouse for Il ritorno d’Ulisse (Christine Rice as Penelope) next January, which gives yours truly hope that in a year or two we’ll see a Poppea at the Roundhouse as well 😉 you never know. The news about this Ulisse has somehow bypassed me thus far so it was very welcome today.

January is for once busy, as Salome is about as well. Can’t say I’m the biggest Byström fan, but Michaela Schuster is Herodias. Now that I’m older and wiser I’d really like to see her again in Die Frau ohne Schatten. But I suppose she can do ornery as well 😉

Salome at the BBC Proms (Royal Albert Hall, 30 August 2014)

If you’ve ever wondered how Salome might sound from the Royal Albert Hall Gallery I’ve an answer for you: vocally muffled. On the other hand, the orchestra carried upwards to great effect, a delight for the Strauss fan.

Herod: Burkhard Ulrich
Herodias: Doris Soffel
Salome: Nina Stemme
Jokanaan: Samuel Youn
Narraboth: Thomas Blondelle
Herodias’s Page: Ronnita Miller
Jews 1-5: Paul Kaufmann | Gideon Poppe | Jörg Schörner | Clemens Bieber | Andrew Harris
Narazenes 1-2: Noel Bouley | Carlton Ford
Soldiers 1-2: Marko Mimica | Tobias Kehrer
Cappadocian: Seth Carico

Conductor: Donald Runnicles | Deutsche Oper Berlin
Stage director: Justin Way

Catch it on Radio 3 for a month.

I joined the Gallery1 day ticket queue, which was very well organised by Door 11. For those who don’t know, you’re given a queue number upon arrival, based on which (+£5 in cash only) you’re admitted into the hall about 45min before the start of the show. Apparently the queue was a lot less hefty yesterday than the one for Mahler’s 2nd the day before. In any case, it advanced quickly.

I’d never been to the Gallery before but I liked the anything goes attitude. You can eat, drink, read, sleep etc. at your heart’s leisure up there, as it’s very much like a promenade. Most still dutifully followed the libretto. I took a walk sometime in the middle of the show, to try out different angles (you can walk from one side of the organ to the other) and out of sheer pleasure of strolling and listening to live music at the same time. For a while people kept the “windows” open for ventilation. Good idea, as towards the end of the opera it had started to get stuffy. I don’t know if the people in the Arena could hydrate but I was glad I could.

The downside was the muffled singing, but I’d say Nina Stemme was in good voice. I could even catch some of the softer singing on occasion and when she particularly projected there was no problem hearing her at all. Considering it was a concert performance (with some stage direction thrown in) she was very into it, as was Doris Soffel as Herodias in a satisfyingly evil red… dressing gown. Samuel Youn as Jokanaan also made a good impression even from half a mile away. I guess it’s not easy playing an overly hormonal teenager at 51 but Stemme wasn’t bad, especially when she made her entrance (she skipped onto the stage I’d say). Youn, in turn, stumbled. It wasn’t clear if he was doing it for the art or for real but it worked for me.

But the real treat was the very tight orchestra. With the voices turned lower I could focus on Strauss’s writing. I heard enough of his stuff by now to be able to catch favourite turns of phrase that he’d reuse or develop during his career, the way he transitioned from one mood to another, how he used the strings to support the vocal line etc. The ending had all the panache you could hope for. I’ll definitely do the Gallery thing again, but I’ll invest in one of these first.


  1. There was also an Arena day ticket queue, by door 12, for those missing the rock concert feel.