Photo Journal: Deborah Voigt's First Staged Salome in Chicago

Classic Arts News   Photo Journal: Deborah Voigt's First Staged Salome in Chicago
 
American soprano Deborah Voigt's eagerly awaited stage debut in the title role of Salome, in Francesca Zambello's "glorious new production" for Lyric Opera of Chicago, has won resounding critical acclaim.

Writing in The New York Times, Anthony Tommasini characterized Voigt's October 21 performance as "a personal and artistic triumph ... she sounded more vocally in command than she has in any other performance of hers that I have heard since the operation." (That would be the much-written-about gastric bypass surgery Voigt had in 2004 to finally win her longstanding battle with obesity.) "And I have never heard her sing with such fearless intensity," Tommasini continued, "That she can now move with newfound agility seems to have empowered her singing as well as her acting."

John Von Rhein of The Chicago Tribune described Voigt's voice as "gleaming and voluptuous, its power and warm, womanly vocal quality undiminished. That unique voice is housed in a body that can now believably execute the physical demands of Salome."

Von Rhein was even happier with the music in the pit, writing that "the real protagonist of Salome is the orchestra. The Lyric ensemble surpassed itself with playing of remarkable richness, strength and, yes, subtlety under that supreme Straussian, [Lyric Opera] music director Andrew Davis."

Salome's infamous Dance of the Seven Veils was less popular than Voigt's performance as a whole, though it was by no means a fiasco. Von Rhein described it as "more silly than sexy," but added that Voigt, "to her credit, moved with aplomb, stripping down to a body stocking in a quick fade to black."

Bloomberg's Robert Hilferty wrote, "I think it was a body stocking and I was fine with that. While not always convincing in this 10-minute striptease, Voigt emerged victorious as the curtain dropped to tumultuous applause."

He agreed that she sounded fabulous: "she was in velvety glorious voice, soaring thrillingly at all the key moments ... Voigt is smaller, yet the voice remains big." Andrew Patner, writing in the Chicago Sun Times, was more impressed with Voigt vocally than dramatically, saying "while Voigt might not have the acting chops or the stage ferocity of some other performers [of this role] — one thinks of Teresa Stratas or, today, Karita Mattila — she is perhaps alone in being able to put the music first and to sing this fiendishly difficult and frequently exposed part with astonishing accuracy, power and beauty."

"Voigt clearly reveled in the physicality of the role," wrote F. N. D'Alessio for The Associated Press. "She used her now healthy-looking body to create a convincing illusion of a most unhealthy-minded young lady."

Not to forget Voigt's colleagues, of course. Tommasini wrote that "Though the staging is stylized, Zambello elicits some compelling performances from the cast, notably the bass-baritone Alan Held as Jochanaan, here a wild-eyed prophet with long Rastafarian locks and pasty white flesh. Other standouts are Judith Forst, a raw-voiced Herodias, who is Salome's mother and Herod's consort, and Joseph Kaiser, a hunky Narraboth, the captain of the palace guards."


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