19 Mar 2024

Director Bruno Ravella has won plaudits for his production of Strauss’s Salome at Irish National Opera:

“For Irish National Opera’s production, the director Bruno Ravella deploys restraint with great shock-preserving potency, in a tale whose cocktail of sex, violence, incest and necrophilia invites excess. …Restraint even characterises the famous dance.” – Michael Dervan in The Irish Times

“The nodal point of the design is occupied by a flamboyant tree (the Tree of Temptation) emerging from a grassy plane. This mini-Eden, inspired by Bruno Ravella by the first serpentine motif of the opera, breaks away from gravity at the appearance of the prophet, freeing the subsoil from its streaming roots, as well as below, a sort of watery oasis which will prove to be of primary importance. The motif of water, already superbly presented by the director in Stiffelio, is the essential contribution of Ravella’s Salomé, attached to the biblical roots of its libretto. …The baptism of the Princess of Judea under the cataracts released by the roots of the tree is the summit of a spectacle which ultimately reveals itself to be quite classical in style …Even the Dance of the Seven Veils , almost ‘wise’, despite its beautiful aquatic conclusion, wishes to stand out from recent psychoanalytic readings.” – Jean Luc Claire, Res Musica

“A play of incest, eroticism, and necrophilic desire may have given Strauss a succès de scandale to go with his musical ambitions, but director Bruno Revella wisely steers the course without seeking to be shocking. Nor does he try a modish take on the sexual politics that might tempt a modern director. Instead, he centres Sinead Campbell Wallace as Salome, emphasising that the real drama is her internal turmoil. In one ingenious stroke, Ravella has Salome, after her rejection by Jochanaan (baritone Tómas Tómasson), sit silently at centre stage for minutes on end. As servants argue about divinity, it is really Salome who retains our attention. This world of religious squabbling, of boring parents (a sulky and supercilious Herodes from tenor Vincent Wolfsteiner, and a defiant Herodias from mezzo Imelda Drumm), of court life: it all is diminished for her now. Something bigger, deeper, and more terrible has been awakened, and Campbell Wallace, somehow, communicates all this with a silent gaze. …That flowering tree, too, is ripped up and raised to show its dark, dripping roots, revealing a shallow pool, and visualising those themes of baptism, fluidity, and what Mahler called the “subterranean fire” within.” – Alan O’Riordan, Irish Examiner

“Ravella’s attention to detail is impressive: conceiving the opera as a clash between Old Testament decadence and New Testament purity, he cleverly showcases the theme of eros versus agape and the unleashing of violent power that comes with the former. His transformation of the opera from its biblical context to a more contemporary setting largely works; the trappings of power might have changed from robe to white-tie but these are mere externalities. The dynamics of Salome’s recently discovered sexual sensibilities and the concomitant power she can unfurl are ultimately more convincing in a modern setting than a biblical one.” – Andrew Larkin, Bachtrack

“Imaginatively charted journey to the abyss […] Campbell Wallace went to the limits in tandem with director Bruno Ravella’s layered psychological drama. Everything in this total piece of music-theatre helped in that impact […]  Strauss’s two long stretches of non-vocal music were used to turn the screw on Salome’s steady degradation. […] Ravella has pared down the surrounding business, so that much of the scene when Herod’s court is supposed to arrive on stage keeps it between him, his monstrous, self-satisfied second wife – Imelda Drumm hits the dudgeon spot-on – and his step-daughter: the ultimate dysfunctional family – and the Herods are the only participants in the discombobulating final scene. Religious factions squabbling over interpretation are left as dinner-jacketed loudmouths driving Salome to further depths of despair […] It’s a tricky scene to clarify, but done to musical and dramatic perfection here. […] Unlike several bewildering recent productions, this one doesn’t dispense with the essentials: the moon, the dance, the head on a salver. Everything about the love-transfiguration gone wrong is disturbingly right: the play with the silver platter, the amount of blood transferred from severed head to Salome’s now-scant clothing, […] It’s a total performance, in short, from another Irish diva following the three who did such a superlative job in Ravella’s gorgeous, detailed take on Der Rosenkavalier when it arrived at Irish National Opera.” – David Nice, The Arts Desk

Recognized time and again for his story telling, “pin-sharp attention to detail” and ability to clearly portray subtleties of the human condition, his notable upcoming projects include revivals of Donizetti’s Zoraida di Granata at the Donizetti Festival in Bergamo, Porpora’s Polifemo at the Opera de Lille (following its premiere at Opéra National du Rhin in February 2024, a new production of Rossini’s Guillaume Tell at Orera de Lausanne, and a revival of Der Rosenkavalier at Santa Fe Opera in the summer of 2024.

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