The Canadian Opera Company Presents: “Salome” by Richard Strauss at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts (February 3, 5, 9, 11, 17, 19, and 24, 2023)

Don’t let frosty nights keep you at home this February. The Canadian Opera Company and Academy Award nominee Atom Egoyan brings you (for a short time only) Richard Strauss’ “Salome” to keep you toasty this winter season. “Salome” takes you on an emotional operatic journey infused with heartache, modern dance with dashes of horror, and nostalgic documentary film snapshots in the life space of the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts between February 3, 5, 9, 11, 17, 19, and 24, 2023.

Atom Egoyan’s interpretation of “Salome” is adapted from the Oscar Wilde play of the same name. The audience inhales the Biblical story of Salome (Ambur Braid), a tempestuous young princess whose obsession with the prisoner Jochanaan (John the Baptist). The audience will exhale softly as their story line turns deadly when Salome’s feelings are rejected. Hell-bent on revenge, she offers her lecherous stepfather, the king, a provocative dance in exchange for Jochanaan’s head. The musical interludes between Salome, Jochanaan, and Salome’s parents are frightful and dripping with toxicity and confusion. The ambience that unfolds in front of the audience may encourage thoughts of an immediate intervention within a haze of bewilderment.

The onyx set is a sight to behold and breathes a quiet heartbeat on the stage. Upon first perusing the grandiosity of the set pieces, the audience is met with ominous lingering bodies which hold a robust distance from one another like menacing strangers. The slanted stage has many Easter eggs buried within it. There is a translucent walkway above the stage where shadowy figures move like ghosts. A lower section where light shines through an opening through the stage, where bodies are housed, and numerous moveable screens which projects images, and sounds to rest your wandering gaze upon. Reflect upon the small porcelain ballerinas that live off stage right which when basked in light, project giant images of dancers in flight. A modern dance sequence buried within the threat of a dark forest will leave you squirming in your seat and thinking of the Blair Witch. The blending of flashlights onto characters on the stage and into the darkness of the audience encourages a communal discomfort which may make you feel that you are being robbed in your own home. Emptied bowls of fruit slide down stage right and are reminiscent of scenes out of The Shining. Nods to Alfred Hitchcock bombastic suspense infused imagery coupled with Strauss’ decadent musical score illuminates the air with purpose and intrigue. The unsettling perspective of Salome caressing and kissing Jochanaan’s decapitated head while its blood drips down her white silk dress and onto the floor will encourage you to wonder the importance of learning more about Strauss’ art.

Ambur Braid returns to the Canadian Opera Company with a raw and drowning performance of Salome. Braid’s demonstrates a deep desire, sorrow, and anger as Salome. If you are new to opera, Braid will offer you a wonderful introduction to the art form. Finnish soprano, Karita Mattila, delivers a deeply vigorous performance as Salome’s mother, Herodias, with a stoic lens. Veteran Canadian tenor Michael Schade plays King Herod with incredible delivery. German baritone Michael Kupfer-Radecky plays Jochanaan with an understanding of a tormented soul.

COC Music Director Johannes Debus conducts the COC Orchestra for Salome. Each performance will feature more than 90 musicians in the pit, helping to fully realize Strauss’ ambitious vision for an explosive score that would redefine modern storytelling. Salome is sung in German and presented by the COC with English SURTITLES™.

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