Saturday, February 18, 2012

From La Monnaie/De Munt with love: Excellent Guy Joosten production of Salomé

Guy Joosten, together with Ivo van Hove and Guy Cassiers, is one of those Flemish miracles of the 90's-00's who possess talent and audacity, style and intelligence to elevate opera shows to the level of significant theatrical events. His Elektra at La Monnaie/De Munt was highly appreciated, but I particularly liked his Salomé, that I was able to see a few years back, when it was premiered at Liceu in Barcelona.

Dir- Guy Joosten, cnd- Carlo Rizzi; cast Chris Merritt (Herodes), Doris Soffel (Herodias), Amanda Echalaz (Salomé), Scott Hendricks (Jochanaan), Gordon Gietz(Narraboth)...

To be quite honest, to date, this and the Robert Carsen production in Turin were the only two productions of Salomé that I really appreciated. Particularly poor is the DVD offer. The conservative Royal Opera House released their show --staged by uninspired David McVicar-- hoping to beat the insipid Met production mounted under the supervision of Jürgen Flimm.  Somewhat more open Staatsoper in Berlin at UdL fell short too by making public their... how could I put it?... their insignificant production labeled Nikolaus Lehnhoff (insignificant despite super-Angela super-Denoke) 

Of what's not on DVD and what I could see recently in live performances, the Lev Dodin production --run and re-run at the Paris Opera-- was particularly bad, while the Peter Konwitschny show presented in Amsterdam a few years back --despite its audacity and ambition to go beyond the trivial narrative-- eventually turned bad because of Peter's appetite to deliver more than what he was capable to provide in terms of ideas to make the whole thing coherent enough.

Chris Merritt, Doris Soffel, Amanda Echalaz and Scott Hendricks

Recently (September 2011) the leadership of the Paris Opera excavated an old & dreadful André Engel production in which Salomé performed haka instead of the Dance of the 7 Veils [yet another Paris Opera insult to the spectators' intelligence].

Even my beloved Komische Opera in Berlin, last year delivered an appalling show by Thilo Reinhardt who found an inspiration(?) in "Take on me" by A-ha [Dance of the 7 Veils was beautifully staged though]. 

So, for all these reasons and due to lack of a decent production of Salomé on DVD, I would like to draw your attention to this very intelligently structured modern production of this opera staged by Guy Joosten, co-produced by Liceu and La Monnaie/De Munt where it was presented last/this month. La Monnaie gives us three weeks of free access to this recording that you can enjoy watching on this link.

Scott Hendricks

I absolutely loved Nina Stemme as Salomé  in Barcelona and feared that whoever would sing it in Brussels would blow it for me. I was wrong: Amanda Echalaz sounds very very good on this recording! Our fave Scott Hendricks --hardly recognizable (was it a wig?)-- proves here once again that he's one of the very best singers/actors in the opera world. His Jochanaan is different from what you usually see because he shapes it to vocally fit his scenic presence/action in this production. Always fascinating Doris Soffel and brilliant Chris Merritt are just a reason more to rush and see this thrilling show by which La Monnaie/De Munt only manages to keep every other opera house miles away in terms of quality and total theatrical performance. Contrary to the incompetent bunch running the Paris Opera, Peter de Caluwe is the very example of how an opera house should be run.

Amanda Echalaz

Here is your link to the video of the Guy Joosten Salomé!
 [available until March 5th, 2012] 


  1. Thanks for posting this. A very, very disturbing show -- as it's meant to be! Never heard of Echalaz before.

    And thanks to you, I see RUSALKA in three weeks...

  2. Why do you not name the author of this tragedy - OSCAR WILDE?

  3. Hi Chanterelle! Yes, it is disturbing, but the swing in which the abused becomes abuser was so wonderfully emphasized here. Everything becomes so more plausible in this production, and one can sympathize with Salomé, and understand her psychological path to insanity.

    I am sure you will love Rusalka. This is one of those very spectacular shows that must be seen in theater to be truly appreciated for what they are -- masterpieces. The cast should be fine although I believe the Dresden cast with Zeppenfeld et al will be hard to beat by anyone anywhere.


    Hi Icons! Guilty as charged ;) I thought that this and the fact that this opera was composed by Richard Strauss were well known fact. The point was just to state that this passionate opera despite its thrilling libretto is difficult to stage --as my recent experience shows-- and that the DVD offer was very poor, which makes this show more compelling. Cheers