Monday, August 25, 2008

SALOME Memories

I have been asked if I'm going to write about current opera. No. This blog is purely Memory Lane. I might pull a current image if I'm writing about blood and gore, because the digital tool captures blood very well, but this blog is not a PR tool, nor is there a critical agenda.

There was a photo researcher who called for images for a text book a while ago. After the editorial decisions were made she called back for captions. The first image was from the middle of MEISTERSINGER, Act I. The caption had to include every character's name- operatic and human, spelled correctly for the researcher. That took half-an-hour. The second image was ROSENKAVALIER, Act II right after Baron Ochs is "stabbed". Once again, every character, operatic and human, all spelled out. Another half-an-hour. The final image was easier, the end of SALOME. By then I knew the routine, "The performer is Salome (spelled that), and the singer is ....... (spelled that too.)" Silence. Then the researcher asked, "Who's the head?"

How do you answer that?! Baritone of the week?! Just think of the casting logistics. I tried to explain about John the Baptist. I'm not sure what that researcher thought.

In the beginning of my opera education I went to every performance of SALOME. It was a mighty "musical meal" to digest. I remember one Salome who didn't shave under her arms. Her "Dance of the Seven Veils" mesmerized the audience. Nobody was watching her legs.

And there was Birgit Nilsson, a vocal force that would bring the house down. She could have just stood there and sung it and the audience would have been riveted. In fact, she did precisely that at the close of the Bing Gala.

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