Part II

Silja/Kosler, 1965

Anja Silja (Salome); Astrid Varnay (Herodias); Eberhard Waechter (Jochanaan); Gerhard Stolze (Herod); Fritz Wunderlich (Narraboth); Vienna State Opera Orch/Zdenek Kosler (live Nov. 25, 1965)
MYTO MCD 001.212 (2 CDs) TT:  1 hr. 39 min.
Anja Silja (b. April 7, 1940) was at the beginning of her career when this was recorded.  She had made her debut (as Rosina in Barber of Seville) when only sixteen; in 1960 she made her Bayreuth debut as Senta in The Flying Dutchman remaining closely associated with the Bayreuth Festival, her career doubtless greatly assisted by her intimate relationship with Wieland Wagner. After his death she switched to roles in which her fine acting skills helped overcome her vocal deficiencies. Silja's voice, even early in her career, was rather ugly with a piercing, whitish tone, often with a wobble and occasional off-pitch singing, evident in this performance recorded in 1964 when she was only twenty-five. No question her characterization is strong and that the performance, in Wieland Wagner's stark black and white production, must have been quite exciting visually. As the Baptist's head appears we hear Herodias screaming and Herod sobbing hysterically—a terrific theatre effect. However there is an unintentionally comic effect at the climax of the opera. As Salome is being crushed by the soldiers' shields she emits a high, piercing "EEEEK!" just before the final chord. I find it quite funny.

Aside from Silja, this performance vocally is outstanding, particularly the Narraboth of Fritz Wunderlich and Eberhard Waechter's strong Jochanaan.  Sound quality is first-rate.  The second CD is filled out with finales of Salome sung by Astrid Varnay (1953), Inge Borkh (1952) and Ljuba Welitsch (1949).  All are quite superior to Silja.

Wegner/Moralt, 1952

Walburga Wegner (Salome); Georgine von Milinkovic (Herodias); Josef Metternich (Jochanaan); László Szemere (Herod); Waldemar Kmentt (Narraboth); Vienna Symphony )Orch/Rudolf Moralt, cond.
PHILIPS 438 664 (2 CDs) TT:  l hr. 35 min.

This is a fascinating recording.  Walburga Wegner (b.1913 in Germany) made her debut as a soprano in the title role of Ariadne auf Naxos in 1946 and sang extensively in Vienna, Hamburg and La Scala.  At the Met she sang only one season (1951-52, Eva in Meistersinger, Chrysothemis in Elektra).  This Salome appears to be her only commercial recording (there is a live 1948 performance of excerpts from Fidelio available on Gephardt). Recorded in December 1952, this Salome is highly effective. Wegner's controlled, light voice, perhaps with the assistance of the microphones, conveys the character as, indeed, a young woman, something most sopranos cannot achieve. The supporting cast is splendid;  Szemere's declaration in the final scene "Sie ist ein Ungeheuer" ("She is monstrous") is superb. Philips mono recording is representative of their rich sound of the era. Now out-of-print, this set was issued on CD in the Philips Opera Collector Limited Edition.

Cebotari/Krauss, 1947

Maria Cebotari (Salome); Elisabeth Höngen (Herodias); Marko Ruthmüller (Jochanaan); Julius Patzak (Herod); Karl Friedrich (Narraboth); Vienna State Opera Orch/Clemens Krauss, cond. (live Covent Garden Sept. 30, 1947)
GEBHARDT JGCD 0011/2 TT:  l hr. 40 min.

This is superb! Maria Cebotari (1910-1949) was a famous singer of Mozart and Strauss during her tragically short lifetime, highly regarded by her colleagues. Lisa della Casa said of her, "...I was enthralled with her...she had a sort of gypsy-sounding voice, but very cultivated, and a timbre that once heard was never forgotten. The personality on the stage was there, but it was the instrument that counted...she had an Italian approach, full of warmth, and yet under perfect control." On this recording we have the Vienna State Opera's guest appearance at Covent Garden—and they brought their best. Cebotari had the misfortune of singing Salome at the same time as Ljuba Welitsch, but judging from what is heard on this live recording she was magnificent in the role. Cebotari's attention to high note values is extraordinary—nothing is glossed over in this dramatically convincing vocally assured performance. She is surrounded by a splendid cast, particularly H­ngen and Patzak (both identified in the skimpy CD notes as singing the role of  "Herodia"). This was six years before Patzak recorded his famous more frantic conception of Herod for Decca/London (also with the composer's close friend Clemens Krauss on the podium).

Sonic quality of this recording is poor with much distortion. However, it is worth hearing for the superlative performance. Cebotari's Salome finale can also be heard in a 1943 recording on a Preiser CD (with an odd—but effective—quiet ending presumably the work of conductor Artur Rother), along with excerpts from Feuersnot, Der Rosenkavalier and Daphne as well as the seldom-heard Taillefer (90222).

Caballé/Leinsdorf, 1968

Montserrat Caballé (Salome); Beverly Wolff (Herodias);Siegmund Nimsgern (Jochanaan);Karlheinz Thiemann (Herod); Wieslaw Ochman (Narraboth); RAI Orch/Zubin Mehta, cond. (live June 15, 1971)
OPERA D'ORO OPD 1311 (2 CDs) TT:  1 hr. 35 min.

Recorded three years after the RCA set, this finds CaballÈ, after a somewhat tentative start, in fine form vocally. No problems whatever with the notes, a convincing characterization and some glorious outpouring of the Spanish soprano's distinctive sound. There is much sensitivity in the final scene as Salome sings of her love for Jochannan, more interpretive leeway than in her commercial recording. The remainder of the cast is not up to her standard; the Italian Radio Orchestra is hard pressed to meet Mehta's demands. There's a brief synopsis of the opera, no information about any of the singers—but it is budget price and those who enjoy Salome probably will wish to own it.

Nilsson/Sebastian, 1962

Birgit Nilsson (Salome); Grace Hoffman (Herodias); Eberhard Wachter (Jochanaan); Fritz Uhl (Herod); Renato Sassola (Narraboth); Colón Theater Orch/Sebastian (live Sept. 21, 1965)
ORNAMENTI FE 117 (2 CDs) TT:  1 hr. 33 min.

This is one of a series of live recordings from Teatro Colón of Buenos Aires which acoustically is considered to be one of the finest opera halls of the world, even though it is quite large (capacity about 4,000).  The Opera opened in 1908 and over the years has had a brilliant history including performances conducted by Toscanini, many complete Ring cycles, first in 1922 with Weingartner, later with Klemperer, Reiner and Wallberg; Sir Thomas Beecham also conducted there often. Singers love to perform there including Birgit Nilsson who appeared there many times. This performance of Salome took place four years after her famous Decca recording with Solti. She is in better voice here than on the recording, tossing off this difficult music with reckless abandon and power. The entire cast is excellent with Fritz Uhl's Herod outstanding (Nilsson had recorded Isolde to Uhl's Tristan for Decca four years earlier). Sound is superb in this live recording—highly recommended.

Rysanek/Kempe, 1974

Leonie Rysanek (Salome); Ruth Hesse (Herodias); Thomas Stewart (Jochanaan); Jon Vickers (Herod); Horst Laubenthal (Narraboth); French National Orch/Rudolf Kempe, cond. (live July 14, 1974, Festival d'Orange)
GOLDEN MELODRAM GM 3.0047 (2 CDs) TT:  1 hr. 37 min.

Another stunning performance from Rysanek, two years after the Vienna State Opera live recording mentioned above. This is her definitive recorded Salome as she pours out an endless stream of spectacular, full-bodied sound. It is quite magnificent. Again Rysanek is surrounded by the best. Thomas Stewart's Jochanaan is imperious, an imposing figure indeed, and what a luxury to have Jon Vickers as Herod; no exaggerated histrionics here, just a believable, desperate monarch in an untenable situation. Kempe's Strauss may not be as dynamic as Reiner's or Mitroupoulous's, but it is totally satisfying. The French orchestra has a hefty Germanic sound under his baton and they play superbly. The stereo sound is fine, capturing Rysanek's huge voice to perfection. She occasionally seems a bit off mike; Narraboth as well is sometimes too distant, but these are minor reservations. Seventeen tracks are provided, no libretto.


Christel Goltz (Salome); Inger KarÈn (Herodias); Josef Herrmann (Jochanaan); Bernd Aldenhoff (Herodes); Rudolf Dittrich (Narraboth); Dresden State Orch/Joseph Keilberth, cond. (rec. 1948)
BERLIN CLASSICS BC 2062 (2 CDs) TT:  1 hr. 39 min.

Christel Goltz (1912-2008) made three commercial recordings of Salome I know of; this is her first—and finest. Her voice became more steely as she aged; here she is quite believable as the teen-age princess and at the height of her vocal powers. This surely is preferable to her 1964 recording also from Dresden, with Otmar Suitner on the podium (available on Berlin Classics 0091012BC), which orchestrally is superb, as is the supporting cast. It's unfortunate Suitner didn't conduct the earlier recording; Keilberth is quite staid. CD notes state that Goltz was "the greatest Salome of the century," an overstatement but there is no question that a Goltz performance was an overall event as her understanding of the role combined with her ideal figure must have created a stunning impression (she always did her own dance except at La Scala when Karajan insisted it be performed by a ballerina). The set includes a fascinating interview with the Goltz in which she mentions that in 1950 she sang Salome in Vienna with great success "to the chagrin of Ljuba Welitsch, a phenomenal Salome in her own right, but of a very different kind." And Welitsch was, indeed, "of a very different kind." The many vocal defects in most later Goltz performances were not to be heard. The only Goltz Salome that deserves a place in a collection is the first.

Varnay/Weigert, 1953

Astrid Varnay (Salome); Margarete Klose (Herodias); Hans Braun (Jochanaan); Julius Patzak (Herodes); Hans Hopf (Narraboth; Bavarian Radio Orch/Hermann Weigert, cond. (rec. June 1953)
ORFEO D'OR C 503 002 (2 CDs) TT:  1 hr. 36 min.

BELLA VOCE 107.210 (2 CDs) (Also contains music from Elektra and Der Rosenkavalier and Strauss songs sung by Varnay as well as Strauss songs sung by Julius Patzak and Margarete Klose)

This is a studio recording made during Varnay's finest years. She had sung Salome for the first time in 1948 in Cincinnati and the next year, with Fritz Reiner and the New York Philharmonic, sang the final scene. Varnay was understudy for Welitsch at the Met that year and sang the role there for the first time Jan. 26, 1950. After Salomes at Covent Garden and Munich she switched to Elektra. It could well be that this recording was her final Salome—and she was excellent in the part, scaling her voice down in an appropriate way although her steely brilliance is more effective in Elektra than in Salome. With her trim figure, Varnay must have been quite stunning visually.  Her husband, Hermann Weigert, conducts in very subdued fashion. Julius Patzak's Herod is not as maniacal as in his Goltz/Krauss Decca recording the following year. Otherwise it's a fine performance in monophonic sound remarkably vivid for its time. Orfeo d'Or offers 13 cuing tracks.

The Bella Voce issue at budget price offers 32 tracks for Salome as well as 12 bonus tracks:  Varnay in excerpts from Elektra and Rosenkavalier plus two lieder, as well as six Strauss songs sung by Patzak with Richard Strauss and Clemens Krauss conducting, concluding with Geduld, Op. 10 No. 5 sung by Margarete Klose.  Quite a fascinating bonus, indeed! Some treasures here!

Bukovac/Wallberg, 1969

Paula Bukovac (Salome); Sigrid Kehl (Herodias); Heiner Horn (Jochanaan); Niels M­ller (Herod); RenË Kollo (Narraboth); Orch. of Gran Teatro La Fenice/ Heinz Wallberg, cond. (rec. live Feb, 1969).

MONDO MUSICA MFOH 10121 (2 CDs) 1 hr. 33 min.

This is a live performance from Venice Feb. 15, 1969.  Paula Bukovac has a somewhat youthful sound but sings with reckless abandon, slides into some high notes and there is little in her performance that commands positive attention. I've never heard of Bukovac before but a quick check on the internet shows she sang in the 1984 world premiere recording of Franz Hummel's opera König Ubu. The remainder of the cast for this Salome is adequate at best, orchestral playing tentative, Wallberg's conducting prosaic. Engineering is odd—during the final scene one can hear every last note played on the xylophone. The producers have provided no tracks whatever—if you're looking for a favorite section you'll have to fast forward—but considering the performance, it matters not. There are only a few seconds of applause included at the end, appropriately decidedly unenthusiastic.Don't even think about getting this!

Jones/Böhm, 1970

Gwyneth Jones (Salome); Mignon Dunn (Herodias); Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau (Jochanaan); Richard Cassilly (Herod); Wieslaw Ochmann (Narraboth); Hamburg State Opera Orch/Karl Bohm, cond.
DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON 445 319 (2 CDs) 1 hr. 37 min. (rec. 1971)

This supposedly is the first commercial "live" recording of Salome but actually it is taken from rehearsals as well as the live performance November 4, 1970. Gwyneth Jones, even this early in her career, had an edgy, squally voice (that got much worse as the years progressed); in this recording she is in better shape vocally in the first half of the opera than she is in the second. Dramatically she makes many points, but she is not easy on the ears. Fischer-Dieskau is miscast as Jochanaan; the remainder of the cast is fine. Böhm is surprisingly subdued in this reading, quite removed from the intensity of his live Vienna performance two years later with Rysanek (see above). Sonic quality is fine—but with Jones in the title role there is little point to own this recording.  The most commendable feature of this set is that there are 32 tracks. Here is yet another unmemorable Salome.


Catherine Malfitano (Salome); Hanna Schwarz (Herodias); Byrn Terfel (Jochanaan); Kenneth Riegel (Herod); Kim Begley (Narraboth; Vienna Philharmonic Orch/Christoph von Dohnányi, cond.
LONDON 444 178 (2 CDs) (F) (DDD) TT:  1 hr. 40 min.

This recording has a lot going for it. Recorded in the "large hall" of the Vienna Concert House April 11-18, 1994, with producers Michael Woolcock and Christopher Pope and engineers James Lock and Jonathan Stokes, it gives listeners an incredibly detailed sonic picture of the VPO. Never before have I heard so much of the score, doubtless because in addition to the superb engineering, Dohnányi's balancing of orchestral textures is impeccable. Missing are passion and drive found in this music by Reiner, Solti, and Mitropoulos. Kenneth Riegel's Herod is remarkable and he is well-matched by Hanna Schwarz, a less-squally Herodias than usual. Bryn Terfel's Jochanaan is even better than his 1990 performance in the Sinopoli set (see above); a more magisterial, sensitive Baptist is not to be heard on records. Malfitano's Salome is an acquired taste.  She has all of the notes but a tendency towards shrillness; still she is superior to many others in the role.  There also are two videos of her performance in which she bares almost all. .

Norman/Ozawa, 1990

Jessye Norman (Salome); Kerstin Witt (Herodias); James Morris (Jochanaan); Walter Raffeiner (Herod); Richard Leech (Narraboth); Dresden State Opera Orch/Seiji Ozawa, cond.
PHILIPS 432 153 (2 CDs) (D) TT:  1 hr. 43 min.

Susan Bullock (Salome); Sally Burgess (Herodias); Jophn Graham-Hall (Herod); John Wegner (Jokanaan); Andrew Rees (Narraboth); Rebecca de Pont Davies (Page); Philharmonia Orch/Sir Charles Mackerras, cond.
CHANDOS CHAN 3157(2 CDs) TT: 61:39 & 52:40

Jessye Norman is an unlikely choice for Salome, but she turns out to be superb in the role. Her careful attention to phrasing and detail is very convincing, with a touch of coquetry, and her demands for Jochanaan's head appropriately increasing in fury. Norman's singing of the second exclamation "Ah!" in the final scene just before the words, "Jochanaan, du warst schön" (Jochanaan, thou wert fair!) is a desperately tragic, vulnerable sound, an effect unmatched by any other singer of the role. The highest notes aren't always as free as we would like, but overall this is a remarkable interpretation of a role Norman never performed on the stage. James Morris is a commanding Baptist, Walter Raffeiner highly impressive as Herod: the remainder of the cast admirable. Ozawa's conducting is low-key, tempi are on the leisurely side; even the "Dance of the Seven Veils" doesn't generate much excitement. From a sonic standpoint this is one of the top achievements of the late Volker Straus.

Bullock/Mackerras, 2008

The only reason to own this Chandos issue is if you are curious to hear Salome sung in English. British soprano Susan Bullock (b. 1958) is featured, a poor choice. Bullock's career as a leading dramatic soprano of the era seems to be flourishing, but judging from this recording, one wonders why? .Her voice is big with an uneveness of production that hardly suggests the character of Salome; she sounds matronly rather than girlish. It doesn't matter if the supporting cast is strong, the orchestra and conductor totally up to their tasks, when the title role is compromised.

Soloviy/Caldi, 2007

Sofia Soloviy (Salome); Constantino Finucci (Jokanaan); Leonardo Gramegna (Herode); Francesco Scaini (Herodias); Vincenzo Maria Sarinelli (Narraboth; Francsaca De Giorgi (Page); Orchestra Internazionale d'Italia/Massimilliano Caldi, cond.
DYNAMICCDS 572/1-2 TT: 56:01 & 38:57

Dynamic's live recording of Salome was made July 2007 at Palazzo Ducale, Martina Franca. Sung in French, it features the young Ukrainian soprano Sofia Soloviy in the title role. She seems to specialize in Mozart and Rossini, but turns out to be a superb Salome, with an appropriately youthful yet powerful sound and easily handles the demanding role. Probably most of the other features singers will be new to most collectors, but all are outstanding, with the exception of Narraboth. Also of interest is the young conductor Massimiliano Caldi, currently principal guest conductor of the Silesian Philharmonic. He leads a dynamic performance—he is a conductor to watch—and the orchestra is superb. The stereo sound is satisfying, and there are many stage sounds which, in a way, add to the excitement. .Text is provided in French and English.

Djanel/Sanzogno, 1952

STRAUSS: Salome (sung in Italian)
Lily Djanel (Salome). Tito Gobbi (Jochanaan). Fiorenzo Tasso (Herodes). Maria Benedetti (Herodias). Angelo Mercuyriali (Narraboth). Maria TGeresa Massa-Ferraro (Page). Torino RAI Orch/Nino Sanzogno, cond.
MYTO 00301 (2 disks) TT: 51:51 & 77:59

Belgian soprano Lily Djanel (1909- ?) was famous in France for her Salome and sang one performance under the direction of the composer. She made her Met debut in January 1942 in Carmen with Sir Thomas Beecham conducting, singing the role more than 30 times at the Met. Her first Salome there was December 9, 1942 with George Szell making his Met debut, the first of seven performances of the opera. She also sang Giulietta in Hoffmann seven times, Santuzza and Venus one time each. Djanel is an impressive Salome, and it is fascinating to hear the opera sung in Italian. Another plus is a very young Tito Gobbi as Jochanaan. Sanzogno is a sensitive conductor, and audio quality is sufficient to convey the performance. Surely one of the most interesting Salomes! A considerable bonus is music of Mozart, Donizetti, Rossini, Mascagni, Cilea and Verdi featuring Tito Gobbi and soprano Rosanna Carteri in a concert from Milan December 24, 1956.Like Welitsch, Djanel was chosen by Strauss for a performance of Salome, and she also sang the role at the Met ; in 1942 she gave the first of six performances (George Szell made his Met debut on the occsion). Djanel made her Met debut as Carmen January 24, 1953 with Sir Thomas Beecham on the podium, which is available on CD. The French soprano sang more than thirty performances of Carmen, also appearing as Giulietta in Hoffman, and a single performance of Venus in Tannhäuser (along with Lauritz Melchior and Helen Traubel). Djanel was an attractive woman with, as one commenter mentioned, "a non-operatic figure." Her voice is totally secure and free from the stressed sound we hear so often on operatic stages today. Her Salome is totally convincing and unique in that it is sung in Italian—and what a pleasure it is to hear Tito Gobbi early in his career as Jochanaan. Check out this intriguing issue.

Magee/Orozco-Estrada, 2016

Emily Magee (Salome). Peter Bronder (Herodes). Michaela Schuster (Herodias). Wolfgang Koch (Jochanaan). Benjaniin Bruns (Narraboth). Claude Eichenberger (Page). Frankfort Radio Symphony / Andres Orozco-Estrada, cond.
PENTATONE SACD 5186604 (2 disks) TT: 62:40 / 50:22

This is an exciting new live recording of Strauss's masterpiece featuring American soprano Eily Magee, one of today;'s leading interpreters of the denabdubg role. Magee is a sensation in opera; about six yeard ago she was choesen by Sir Simon Rattle to star in a concert performance of Salome. You can see excerpts from it on YouTube. Now we have this live performance September 10, 2016 at Akta Opera Frankfort. Young conductor Andrés Oroco-Estrada is at his best in repertory like this, and the fine engineering captures all of the shimmering richness of Strauss's score. It is unfortunate that Peter Bronder was cast as Herod. Hero is indeed a despicable creature, but the singer interpreting the role should convey his nobility, hard to do when your voice is as qyaverty as Bronder's. Still, this is a major performance of ?Salome, well worth inclusion in any collecion. A complete libretto is provided if you ae interested in this opera, please check our feature discussing all recordings of it also the special feature about Ljuba Welitsch, the definitive Salome.

Which recording to get?

Some older are of great importance, particularly those by Leonie Rysanek live from the Vienna State Opera, and Hildegard Behrens with Karajan recorded just before the 1977 Salzburg Festival. And of course the historic live category is where we find the true treasures, particularly the 1949 Ljuba Welitsch Met performance, the Birgit Nilsson Buenos Aires of 1965, and Rysanek's blazing 1974 French Festival performance. And there are many "pirate" recordings. And be sure to check the DVD versions listed in Part 3 of this feature.

R.E.B. (January, 2015)

Continue with Part 3 - Excerpts from Salome and DVD Reviews