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Tokyo Phil stars in Salome

Orchard Hall, Bunkamura
08/20/1999 -  
Richard Strauss : Salome
Mari Midorikawa (Salome), Magnus Kyhle (Herod), Akemi Nishi (Herodias), Akiya Fukushima (Jokanaan), Hiroyuki Yoshida (Narraboth), Herodias's Page (Akiko Ogawa), Kukiko Sobajina (Solo dancer) The Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra, Kazuzhi Ono (conductor) Ryozo Makino ('scenery' designer),

A concert performance of an opera is something less than a staged performance but it can also be something different. The orchestra mounts the stage and can star rather than merely accompany. This is what happened on August 20th.

'Opera Concertante Series Number 18' was a performance of Salome coming between the first Japanese performances of Strauss's Die schweigsame Frau and Schreker's Der ferne Klang (January 2000). Kazuzhi Ono led the Tokyo Philharmonic in an electric account of Strauss's brilliant score that seemed limited only by the quality of his singers.

Mari Midorikawa was an underpowered Salome. She has an attractive voice but only approximate diction. Much the same could be said for Akiya Fukushima's Jokanaan. The Swedish singer Magnus Kyle was a characterful Herod. Almost sympathetic, more oily than grotesque, he gave much needed life and meaning to the text. Among the rest, Akemi Nishi made a strong impression as Herodias, with a voice cutting incisively through the orchestra. Hiroyuki Yoshida was a passionate Narraboth. Nevertheless a Salome so dominated by its Herod can hardly satisfy.

The "Dance of the Seven Veils" was performed with a professional dancer on a raised stage immediately behind the orchestra. Seven long hanging strips of gauze-like material represented the veils. The dancer appeared in silhouette back projected against the veils, danced around and through them and eventually pulled them down. It was simple and effective, by turns wild, erotic, and frightening. It was undoubtedly the climax of the evening. Kazushi Ono led the orchestra in a riveting account of the music that must have left some of the audience wondering whether the opera wouldn't have been better done without singers!

Footnote: Can Salome still shock? The nervous audience started applauding immediately after the end, stopped for few moments in embarrassment, then began again.

Simon Holledge



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