Orchestra Brings Rich Sounds and Colour of Salome; Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra Make a Rare Visit to Birmingham with a Richard Strauss Opera. Christopher Morley Talks to Their Conductor

The Birmingham Post (England), September 10, 2015 | Go to article overview

Orchestra Brings Rich Sounds and Colour of Salome; Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra Make a Rare Visit to Birmingham with a Richard Strauss Opera. Christopher Morley Talks to Their Conductor


Byline: Christopher Morley

IT'S always good to welcome regional orchestras to Symphony Hall, and the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra makes an all-too-rare visit early in October with a concert performance of Richard Strauss' compact yet teeming Oscar Wilde-derived opera Salome.

The cast includes luminaries such as Lisa Lindstrom, James Rutherford, Kim Begley and Birgit Remmert, and the conductor is the BSO music director Kirill Karabits, who will have conducted the work for the first time in Poole a couple of nights earlier. He tells me how he came to choose this work, as much a showpiece for the orchestra as for the singers. "I'd thought about doing Salome with Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra for a number of years now, partly because of my deep fascination for Richard Strauss' music and partly because it's one of those operas that work perfectly semi-staged or in concert," he says.

"The architecture in this piece is rather compact and so masterly built that listeners can actually become active participants of the story visualising the drama. Performing this piece is a challenge for the orchestra and of course the singers. The orchestra should produce a very rich sound full of colours and be a great support for the emotional Salome, whose role is one of the most difficult ones - it combines delicacy, transparency as well as vocal power and all the qualities of a real dramatic soprano. This role stands on the same difficulty level with Isolde or Turandot."

Strauss' opera has of course achieved notoriety through its climactic Dance of the Seven Veils, where Salome (one recoils at describing her as the 'heroine') persuades her besotted stepfather Herodes to grant her one wish - the head of John the Baptist. In every staged production there is always the question, 'will she or won't she'? Some directors require an eventual revelation of full nudity, others arrive at a coy compromise and some, bizarrely, demand no garmentshedding at all.

Kirill and I agree that it will be good to hear this orchestral showpiece without any of the visual distractions.

"Indeed, it is such a rich and intense piece of music that it hardly needs any staging," he says. "Every time I conducted the Dance as an excerpt on its own, though, I actually wondered how much more impact on the listeners it can make being put into the context of the whole piece. …

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