This filmed version of Strauss' shocker features Teresa Stratas as opera's most depraved teenager, and she's as perfect a Salome as one would ever hope to see or hear. Stratas inhabits the role, exploring the character's s... more »ensuousness as she vainly woos Jochanaan, her venomous hatred when she's rejected, the crazed look in her eyes when she demands his head--on a silver platter, no less. Such complete identification with a role, especially of a character so malignant helps make this 1974 Salome stand out among the many fine DVDs of the opera. The visceral impact of the film owes much to Götz Friedrich's direction and Gerd Staub's sets. All of the action takes place in the courtyard of Herod's palace, but Friedrich exploits the claustrophobic possibilities of limited space by his deft camera angles that follow the singers and by copious close-ups that often show details unavailable to us when we see the opera live or even in a filmed stage performance: Stratas' face and eyes, which reflect her swift mood changes, Jochanaan's face, which shows his disgust, and the corrupt visages of Herod and Herodias. The cumulative effect of such close-ups heightens tension and creates an atmosphere in which we, the viewers, are thrust into the action. It's not always a comfortable experience but it's always an engrossing one. Staub's sets and the costumes designed by Jan Skalicky are more or less generic but functional, with nice touches like the headpiece Stratas wears, which emphasizes the reptilian slithering of her movements The veils in Salome's famous dance and some of the robes worn by the courtiers add touches of color to the overall grayness that emphasizes the claustrophobic elements of the opera. While Stratas' overwhelming performance commands prime attention, the cast is a strong one. The great Wagnerian soprano Astrid Varnay, long past her vocal prime, is a venomous Herodiade whose facial expressions mirror her inner corruption. Varnay's portrayal comes perilously close to being over the top but that may be said of others in the cast, too, as Friedrich seems to encourage excess in an opera that wallows in it. Hans Beirer's lascivious Herod, for example, is also broadly interpreted, but very well done in the context of Friedrich's framework of a decadent sex-obsessed court. The role of Jochanaan is taken by Bernd Weikl whose sonorous singing and acting vividly portray his scorn for his captors and his repulsion at Salome's sexual aggressiveness. The sound mix favors the singers and downgrades the orchestra, itself a central character, though rather attenuated, as it comments on the action and elaborates on the sung lines. Karl Böhm, a great Strauss conductor, leads the sumptuous Vienna Philharmonic in a performance that, in spite of its dim placement, illuminates Strauss' orchestration. All in all, this is a must-have Salome. --Dan Davis« less
A sleek Siamese cat and her gorgon of a mother make this a f
L. Mitnick | Chicago, Illinois United States | 06/13/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"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!!!!!!!!!"
Deliciously repulsive, yet fascinating
Mr John Haueisen | WORTHINGTON, OHIO United States | 10/13/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"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."
A dream come true
Robert Petersen | Durban, South Africa | 06/04/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"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. "
This is the one to get
Peter T. Sipos | Riyadh, Saudi Arabia | 06/09/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"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!"
Lass mich deinen Mund küssen...
Snake Man | UK | 08/06/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"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.