Next 7 Special: ‘Salome’ builds buzz

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Veils that can’t wait

Buzz builds for San Diego’s ‘Salome’

It’s further south than we usually cover, and we’re a little late, as the current production of ‘Salome‘ premiered Saturday night at San Diego Opera. But with three performances left (starting tomorrow) and loudly raving reviews coming from the press, from seasoned opera fans and even from jaded singers, this particular run of the Strauss masterpiece deserves some special attention.

Lise Lindstrom, sopranoListers who attended last weekend’s performance report that Lise Lindstrom, seen in the title role in SDO’s ‘Turandot‘ last season, is somehow even better as Salome. Her physical performance is far more extensive than most divas who take on the role, putting her very real dance skills to work with finesse. This makes her stamina even more astonishing than that of a soprano who can “merely” accomplish the role alone: after doing a full Dance of the Seven Veils, Lindstrom then sings the last scene of the opera, a challenging feat on its own, as if she were “fresh as a daisy”. The role demands an unusually large range for a soprano, leaning into a low Gb that has challenged even legendary Salomes such as Birgit Nilsson. But our sources report that Lindstrom’s low notes resound more audibly and beautifully than most contraltos, and her voice is “glorious” in what is primarily a high tessitura.

Other cast members aren’t getting as much attention, but their performances are also well worth attendance. Greer Grimsley (Jochanaan), and Irina Mishura (Herodias) have both received repeated mentions for rich characterizations and able singing, and we hear that the cast as a whole is doing a bang-up job. The orchestra, led by Steuart Bedford, has been called “wimpy” by the Union-Tribune, and “polite” by one more generous audience member. It’s nice that the music doesn’t overpower the singers, but there may be spots where a little more oomph could increase the work’s impact. The production is fairly modernized, discarding “the usual Cecil B. DeMille biblical set” for something simple that allows the singing and action to shine. Even the photographs showing up on the SDO website and elsewhere on the web are simply compelling.

Considering the sold-out shows of San Diego’s previous season, it’s a bit surprising that there are still tickets available for ‘Salome’. But while this work is important to the operatic repertoire and essential for opera pros, it tends to be a bit of a tough sell for audiences, no matter what the production or who is in the cast. This, of course, means a golden opportunity for all of us. Don’t let the distance keep you from enjoying it: the opera is a one-act and just under two hours in duration, meaning you can go down early, enjoy a hearty Italian dinner at one of the many nearby eateries in Little Italy, enjoy the show, and still be back in LA by midnight. Carpool with a friend or two or even take the train, and you’ve got all the makings of a very manageable operatic adventure.

Next up? Jake Heggie’s celebrated ‘Moby-Dick‘ comes to SDO in about a month, featuring much-anticipated performances by tenor Ben Heppner, who created the role of Captain Ahab. Heppner has been resting well since his all-too-evident vocal troubles during LAO’s ‘Lohengrin‘ last year, but happily, all reports indicate that he’s well recovered and ready to roll. Check out the San Diego Opera website and get your tickets asap.


by Richard Strauss

Tuesday, January 31, 7pm

Friday, February 3, 8pm

Sunday, February 5, 2pm

Buy tickets online

San Diego Civic Theatre

Third Avenue & B Street

Downtown San Diego

Parking & Directions

Read the Reviews:

Kenneth Herman —

James Chute — San Diego Union-Tribune

Christie Grimstad —

Brian Holt — Out West Arts

Originally published in a special edition of Next 7, 1/30/2012

Correction: Arrrrh! The original feature listed Ben Heppner as a baritone, and not as the tenor he is. The error has been corrected above. We regret the error, and look forward to his return! –LDG

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