The Philadelphia Orchestra and Opera Philadelphia Present their First-Ever Co-Production, SALOME, 5/8 and 5/10
The Philadelphia Orchestra and Opera Philadelphia will join together in a first-time co-production-a theatrically-inspired production of Richard Strauss's compelling and provocative masterpiece, Salome. Two sold-out performances are set to take place on Thursday, May 8, and Saturday, May 10, 2014, in the Kimmel Center's Verizon Hall, and will be led by Philadelphia Orchestra Music Director Yannick Nézet-Séguin. Audiences will enjoy a groundbreaking blend of the distinctive sound of The Philadelphia Orchestra, one of the preeminent orchestras in the world, and Opera Philadelphia's dynamic theatrical presentation. These landmark performances are made possible in part by the generous support of The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Wyncote Foundation, and the Presser Foundation.
In addition to his symphonic concerts in Philadelphia and on the world's most prestigious podiums,Nézet-Séguin is also known and admired for his work in the great opera houses of the world, recently conducting Dvo?ák's Rusalka with the Metropolitan Opera in New York. He brings his unbridled passion for opera to this project and is drawing on his close relationships with a constellation of internationally-acclaimed vocalists, including soprano Camilla Nylund (Salome), mezzo-soprano Birgit Remmert (Herodias), tenor John Mac Master (Herod), and bass-baritone Alan Held (John the Baptist). The production marks the first complete performances of Salome by The Philadelphia Orchestra, and serves as the hallmark of the Orchestra's celebration of the 150th anniversary of Richard Strauss's birth.
"Salome is to me one of the greatest masterpieces written in the 20th century, and bringing this great operatic score to Philadelphia Orchestra audiences is special on its own," said Nézet-Séguin. "To now work closely with Opera Philadelphia to create a theatrical environment around the music makes this project even more exceptional. This will be a unique and dramatic telling of the story of Salome that will mesmerize both Orchestra and Opera audiences. I am thrilled to begin my journey with the Orchestra into the world of opera by working together with our friends and partners at Opera Philadelphia."
"I am so ecstatic that two of Philadelphia's iconic performing arts organizations will be sharing the stage of Verizon Hall for Salome," said David B. Devan, general director and president of Opera Philadelphia. "This co-production is born out of a genuine alignment between our two companies' shared artistic goals, and together we will be creating an amazing moment of civic pride for our city. Salome will broaden the operatic experience for our audience, perfectly complementing our large-scale production of Mozart's Don Giovanni in April in the Academy of Music and June's East Coast Premiere of Ricky Ian Gordon's intimate chamber work A Coffin in Egypt in the Aurora Series at the Perelman Theater. I am confident that our staging of Salome will allow audiences to follow this well-known story in an exciting, thought-provoking setting."
"This is a thrilling time for us as we join forces with one of Philadelphia's flagship cultural organizations in a project that will combine and advance our shared institutional goals of artistic growth, innovation, and reinvigorated concert experiences," said Allison Vulgamore, Philadelphia Orchestra CEO and president. "We are incredibly fortunate and proud to have an organization such as Opera Philadelphia to partner with in this exciting initiative, and look forward to giving audiences everywhere an even more compelling reason to visit Philadelphia and experience everything it has to offer as a musical destination."
Considered scandalous when it premiered in 1905, and banned for years in the U.S. and elsewhere, Strauss's adaptation of Oscar Wilde's play is among the most important musical works of the 20th century. Mahler, who attended the 1906 Austrian premiere along with Puccini, Zemlinsky, and Schoenberg, praised the piece as "one of the greatest masterworks of our time." This fast-paced, one-act opera is known as much for its revolutionary use of large-scale orchestra and virtuosic singers as it is for its graphic depiction of this deeply psychological tale. At the core of this erotically-charged opera set in biblical times is a tangled and disturbed triangle: the persecuted John the Baptist, a lecherous King Herod, and the monarch's pathologically seductive stepdaughter, Salome, who eventually demands the head of the imprisoned prophet on a silver platter. A production team comprised of stage director Kevin Newbury and designer Vita Tzykun gives this age-old biblical tale a timeless treatment, transforming Verizon Hall with custom-built design and staging elements, stylized costumes, theatrical lighting, and innovative design elements such as sculptural pieces integrated into the hall's architecture. The result is a completely immersive, 4-D concert environment-one that transports the audience into the heart of the action, with the musical score as the driving force.
Newbury, who will return to direct in the 2014-15 season with both Opera Philadelphia (Theodore Morrison's Oscar) and The Philadelphia Orchestra (Leonard Bernstein's MASS), believes Salome is ideally suited to a theatrical symphonic staging. "The opera features gorgeous music, rich characters, and a potent story about sex, greed, and morality," said Newbury. "Opera audiences are usually denied the opportunity to actually see the orchestra playing a score. A staging in a symphonic setting allows us to feature the music front and center. The orchestra itself plays a major character both musically and theatrically."
Newbury and Tzykun are drawing inspiration from the architecture of the Kimmel Center. They are also using the "symbols of terror" in the opera for inspiration: the mysterious cistern; Salome's virginal veils; and, most importantly, the moon. They plan to transform Verizon Hall into a night sky of seven moons. These seven moons shift in color and dynamic throughout the evening, reflecting the many colors and dynamics in the score.
The role of Salome will be performed by Finnish soprano Camilla Nylund, who has performed leading roles at La Scala, Covent Garden, the Salzburg Festival, and the Vienna State Opera. American bass-baritone Alan Held, a resident of nearby Bucks County, is Jochanaan, a role he has sung to critical acclaim at the Saito Kinen Festival in Japan, the Vienna State Opera, the Bavarian State Opera in Munich, and in Baden-Baden, Germany. Tenor John Mac Master is familiar to Philadelphia opera audiences for creating the role of Casey in Richard Danielpour's Margaret Garner. He has triumphed as Herod in Frankfurt and Stuttgart and has performed the role of the twisted king with San Francisco Opera, Vancouver Opera, New Orleans Opera, and Montreal Opera. German mezzo-soprano Birgit Remmert, who has performed numerous Strauss and Wagner roles at the Bayreuth Festival, Zurich Opera, and the Vienna State Opera, will sing the role of Herodias.