Strauss’ music powers ‘Salome’Written by Julie Ryan | | firstname.lastname@example.org
The Toledo Opera continues its 50th season with its production of “Salome,” featuring music by Richard Strauss.
“It’s a very big thing for Toledo opera because ‘Salome’ is a huge undertaking. It’s magnificent but monstrously complex and huge. Very few companies outside of the major capitals like New York and Chicago would even attempt it,” said Thomas Conlin, the conductor.
Amy Johnson, who plays the role of Salome, said the opera was inspired by the Oscar Wilde play.
“It’s based on a really fascinating play,” she said. “It has many more similarities to traditional theater than preconceived notions one might have to a traditional opera.”
The opera follows Salome, a Biblical character used by Wilde for inspiration. Johnson said Salome is very disturbed and a part of a family “just waiting for the ‘Dr. Phil’ show.”
Salome encounters the imprisoned John the Baptist and is fascinated by him, even though her parents hate him.
“There’s something different about him,” Johnson said. “He has a spiritual realm about him and unconditional love — she’s never experienced anything like that before.”
Johnson said Salome mistakes the love for something sensual, and when she tries to seduce John the Baptist, he only responds with the need she has for Jesus Christ. The rejection causes her to have a psychological breakdown, and she asks her parents for his head on a silver platter.
The opera incorporates dancing, acting and singing, Johnson said.
“This is the German composer Richard Strauss, who is one of the all-time greatest and most prolific composers of opera and other music for the voice. He also contributed to the art and science of orchestral playing,” Conlin said.
Conlin said Strauss was around orchestras all his life, and the sound of modern orchestra owes a lot to him.
“We have 17 soloists plus a dozen no singing parts — dancers and actors — all of whom are local. The singers come from all over: Germany, Korea, Italy, Brazil and five or six other countries. Opera is truly an international art form,” Conlin said.
General and Artistic Director Renay Conlin travels to New York each year to audition and cast singers for the Toledo Opera’s performances.
“I hear hundreds of singers and from those auditions I assemble a cast,” Renay said. “Each role is cast individually; it’s not like a traveling road show.”
Conlin said a Toledo artist, Clayton G. Peterson, is designing the sets. The set combines many elements, including Biblical themes, but remains timeless in feel, he said.
The opera’s lighting is by Tláloc López-Watermann who, along with Peterson, is making his debut at the Toledo Opera.
Conlin said they chose to put on “Salome” for its challenge and have been rehearsing nine to 12 hours, six days a week, for one month.
“Everything works; there’s never a dull moment in it,” Conlin said. “I would say there might be a piece you would hear sometime that might make you yawn, but not at ‘Salome.’ It never keeps you waiting, there’s never a lull.”
Performances of “Salome” will be at The Valentine Theatre at 7:30 p.m. March 14 and 20 and 2 p.m. March 22. Tickets are $29 to $95 and can be purchased online at toledoopera.org or by phone at (419) 255-7464. “Salome” runs 90 minutes and will be sung in German, with English translations projected above the stage.