Malin Byström © Peter Knutsson
Malin Byström @ Peter Knutsson
English
Interview

Salome under the threat of Coronavirus at La Scala : a conversation with soprano Malin Byström

par Jacqueline Letzter et Robert Adelson | le 10 mars 2020

Swedish soprano Malin Byström was set to make her debut at La Scala in what has become one of her signature roles, Strauss’s Salome, in a new production by Damiano Michieletto, conducted by Riccardo Chailly. The performances were cancelled due to the Coronavirus outbreak, but the theatre is determined to reschedule. During the rehearsals, Ms Byström took a moment to talk with the editors of Classicagenda about the role of Salome and performing at La Scala.

 

Malin Byström, you are beginning rehearsals for this new production of Salome at La Scala, directed by Damiano Michieletto and conducted by Ricardo Chailly. What can you tell our readers who will not have the chance to come to Milan about this production ?

While I am writing this, sadly the whole run of performances has been cancelled due to the Coronavirus. We are waiting and hoping for new dates to be able to perform it.

Damiano Michieletto has looked deep into the text of Oscar Wilde, and we are using a lot of symbolism, and exploring the dark past of this troubled family. What happened to Salome’s father? We know he was trapped in the same cistern as Jochanaan. How much does Salome know about this? How has it affected her? And what has Herod done to her? She is utterly alone in a twisted society.

While I am writing this, sadly the whole run of performances has been cancelled due to the Coronavirus. We are waiting and hoping for new dates to be able to perform it.

This is your debut at La Scala. What does singing at this theatre mean to you ?

A big honor, a huge joy. I am grateful and happy every day to go to work in this fantastic and iconic theatre.

 

What past interpretations of Salome have most influenced you ?

Ljuba Welitsch! So clear, huge, but still youthful. And important and interesting to have the link to Strauss through her. And of course, being Swedish, I have listened a lot to Birgit Nilsson. She is also always clean and clear, gorgeous and impressive. For a later reference, and someone closer to my own voice, I really love Karita Mattila’s Salome.

Salome is very lonely in a disturbed family and a sick society. She has few references to “normality.”

Strauss’s Salome is an ambiguous figure; at times she appears to be an adolescent girl experiencing her first stirrings of sexual awakening and at others she is a murderous seductress. How do you see her ?

Salome is very lonely in a disturbed family and a sick society. She has few references to “normality.” Has she been abused by Herod? Probably. And her mother has not protected her. She is alone, and she is trying to understand life from what she has around her. Immediately fascinated and fixated by Jochanaan, she is trying to understand him, life, love, death. She mixes up and gets a lot of it wrong…

Malin Byström @ Peter Knutsson

Malin Byström @ Peter Knutsson

Salome is a vocal tour de force. It requires the soprano to sing both very quietly and to project over an unusually large orchestra, and the vocal line spans from low G-flat to high B. How do you prepare yourself physically for singing such a taxing role ?

Yes, it is demanding. Technique is everything, I work on the voice all the time. Trying to find the nuances together with the conductor. And eating and sleeping well helps!

Technique is everything

A soprano’s interpretation of Salome is very personal, and you are known for your approach to this role. Nevertheless, when you begin rehearsing a new production, you are subject to the dictates of both the conductor and the stage director. Can you speak a bit about how you walk this fine line between maintaining your own artistic personality and cooperating with these directors’ wishes ?

I feel as though I still have a lot to discover and understand in Salome. I enjoy very much the discussions with Damiano for example. With my growing experience I feel mutual respect from most directors and conductors, and usually we feed from each other to create something bigger than just one person’s view or experience.

 

 




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