David McVicar’s powerful 2008 production of Strauss's opera – based on a play by Oscar Wilde – takes the controversial and disturbing film 120 Days of Sodom as its visual reference. The action is set in a debauched palace, which has suggestions of Nazi Germany. Strauss’s ravishing and voluptuous score adds to the sexual alchemy that is conjured by an international cast led by Nadja Michael in the title role. Salome is filmed for the big screen with High Definition cameras and recorded in true surround sound.
Others have praised this Covent Garden Salome for its dramatic impact, and with good cause. The direcotr, Luc Bondy, has translated the opera into tortured terms that the painter Egon Schiele would recognize; the sexuality is masochistic, frenzied, and self-destructive. John the Baptist is no solemn stick of wood – Bryn Terfel makes him as agonized and writhing as Salome herself. But the brunt of the Expressionist labor falls on the cat-like Malfitano, whose descent into madness is neither campy nor stagey. She's a great actress, and she adapts to the stylized movements straight out of Nosferatu with total conviction. (Only the opening scene is weak, since her girlish figure can't completely disguise that she is considerably too old to be the Judean princess.)… By Santa Fe Listener
Teresa Stratas has been called the world's greatest living singing actress, and she is seen and heard at the peak of her powers in the title role of director Götz Friedrich's spine-chilling version of Salome. on of the most highly acclaimed opera films ever made - with Strauss's score in the expert hands of his protégé Karl Böhm, conducting the Vienna Philharmonic.
Götz Friedrich’s 1981 Elektra film sets Richard Strauss’ opera in a dark and dingy abandoned 20th-century factory populated by grungy denizens in psuedo-Greek garb. Elektra herself appears like some deranged homeless woman reeking with sweat and slime (in the rain). And the depravity doesn’t stop there. Friedrich plays up the work’s sado-masochistic elements, with bloody whippings and an orgy sequence involving nude lesbians bathing themselves in the blood of a sacrificial ram. Now you might think that all of this detracts from the score, but on the contrary, the production matches image to music so brilliantly that anyone seeing this opera for the first time would think they were created for each other (which allows you to ignore the occasional useless, almost silly gesture, such as the frequent and prolonged shots of Agamemnon’s bloodied visage during Elektra’s opening monologue).
Filmed live in Baden-Baden by the veteran director Brian Large, Renée Fleming makes her debut in the role of Ariadne together with fellow key Strauss interpreters Sophie Koch and Christian Thielemann, following on from their Rosenkavalier triumph. Thielemann conducts the Staatskapelle Dresden, the orchestra to whom Strauss dedicated his Alpine Symphony and which premiered Feuersnot, Salome, Elektra, Der Rosenkavalier and Daphne. Fleming's voice might have been made for Ariadne and she achieved a great personal triumph in this production: “The chief glory of the evening was hearing Renée Fleming, the Straussian soprano par excellence, making her role debut as Ariadne… As the possessor of what is, possibly, the most beautiful soprano voice in the world, she put her vocal treasures in the service of an empathic, nuanced interpretation of the role. From the creamy top, through a rich, warm middle, to the bewitching, darker colours of her lower register, Fleming poured her magnificent sound into Strauss’s enchanting melodic arcs, animating the sadness, vulnerability, and desire of the bereft princess…” Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung
The creation of Daphne was not a simple affair, especially for what concerned the poetic text (due to the modest talent of the librettist Joseph Gregor), but on 15th October 1938 the opera was finally premièred at Dresden’s Staatstheater. On the podium was the young conductor Karl Böhm. Daphne is a masterpiece of early 20th-century vocal music. Structured in a single act, this opera is a solid work with a rich musical vein. Strauss’s orchestration appears, as always, remarkably refined. The vocal writing is demanding for all the main characters, but especially so for the protagonist, here interpreted by a magnificent June Anderson. Filmed in high definition at Venice’s La Fenice, the present production is directed by Paul Curran.
When the curtain fell at the Paris Opera premiere of Capriccio, the audiences rose to long and frenetic ovations. They unanimously applauded each singer in a cast of stars, but Renée Fleming was undoubtedly the leading light of this remarkable production. Every one of the performers in this production is outstanding and can be regarded as the best possible singer for the role - Opera fans from all over the world came to Paris to see this production. This Capriccio also served as a role debut for American star soprano Renée Fleming who took on the role of the Gräfin. The critics celebrated her performance as “ideal” in all aspects: musically, dramatically and above all vocally and she was cheered frenetically by the audience at the Palais Garnier of the Opéra National de Paris.
“…Fleming looks fabulous, knows and can deliver good German, and can sing this role at least as well as anyone on the planet at the moment. But it's a shame that all concerned did not wait for a genuinely new production to preserve. This run-through of an old staging… is fluent and energetic… but it is not an evening pregnant with dramatic insight. In the pit Welser-Möst is an efficient, unemotional guide to the score…” (Gramophone Magazine)
The epic grandeur of Der Rosenkavalier stems not just from its immense length (over three hours) but from the all-too-human complexity of its characters–each of whom is smitten with someone else–and the endless stream of graceful melodies the composer conjures. After the tonality-stretching dissonance of Salome and especially Elektra, Strauss moved onto a different musical path here: the music's sheer gorgeousness has given this most heartbreaking of 20th-century operas its pride of place in the repertory.
“This is straight and unfussy in its staging, and the video production by Brian Large could not be more expert and unobtrusive (save for one or two close-ups of Jessye Norman's larynx). Tatiana Troyanos's Composer is quite superb, and neither Battle nor Norman can be faulted vocally” (Penguin Guide)