Opera Scotland

Salome 2022Edinburgh International Festival

Read more about the opera Salome

A Sunday evening may seem an odd occasion for a performance of Salome.  But then back in 1974 the rule about not performing on the Sabbath was changed to allow the great Swedish soprano Birgit Nilsson to schedule a second performance of Elektra, arguably an even more bloodthirsty work by Strauss.

A great Swedish soprano of more recent vintage took the title role in this gloriously memorable concert performance.  The rapturous ovation at the end had most of the audience standing and cheering, and quite justifiably so.

Edward Gardner and his Norwegian orchestra have had enormous success in Edinburgh and London with Peter Grimes, also successfully recorded, and they enjoyed equal success with this famous orchestral showpiece.  He conducted Elektra at the 2006 Festival, so it has taken him quite a while to bring us the logical follow-up, but it was worth the wait.

Malin Byström's performance of the title role was extraordinary.  She has already sung it at the Bolshoi and in Amsterdam, and she will clearly be one of the great interpreters for several years to come.  No allowances needed to be made for the concert environment.  There is relatively little action during the piece, until the notorious dance.  This took place off-stage - a private audience for Herod and Herodias - and usefully allowed her to rest for a few minutes before the long final scene.

The rest of the cast were on a comparable level.  Gerhard Siegel gave a riveting performance of Herod, a real creature of the stage, as we learned here with his Mime recently, and with a far more beautiful voice than most of the tenors who generally seem to take on the role when the voice has lost its sweetness.  Siegel's tone was appropriately seductive.

Johan Reuter's Jokanaan projected well from offstage and gave an appropriately severe performance when visible.  A singer surprisingly little-known in Britain was the Herodias, another famous Swede, Katarina Dalayman.  During her years as a dramatic soprano she sang Brünnhilde in most of the major houses, apparently only omitting Covent Garden.  If her presence was long overdue it was very welcome.  

Hanna Hipp has worked with Scottish Opera as well as other British companies and her international career is developing rapidly.  It was good to see her back.  The important tenor role of Narraboth was given a nicely lyrical performance by Bror Magnus Tødenes.

Among the large list of short roles there were two young British singers making first Festival appearances.  The bass Callum Thorpe was an excellent Fifth Jew, while baritone James Berry, recently a notably impressive Golaud in St Andrews, sang briefly as the Cappadocian.  Rather more experienced, and very welcome, were Clive Bayley and James Platt.

For anyone not sated with exposure to this decadent masterpiece, a revival of Sir David McVicar's staging opens at Covent Garden on 9 September.  Byström and Dalayman repeat their roles.

Performance DatesSalome 2022

Map List

Usher Hall | Edinburgh

14 Aug, 19.00

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