Alex Penda hits home vocally and dramatically in Santa Fe’s Salome
… she is an actor, and a singer who seemed to bloom into the darkness of the role the further into things she got. Standing in her slip and restating her demand for murder, again and again, her singing was as powerful as her dance, which was more trancelike than seductive. In the middle of it, a younger Salome is revealed witnessing the murder of her father at the same desk where Jochanaan sits now, lost in religious fervor. Penda successfully sings on a character journey from the bored, spoiled Princess into a full-fledged monster having a blow-out end to her own life. Throughout, her presence – vocally and dramatically – hits home. — Michael Wade Simpson, bachtrack.com, 10 August 2015
Penda has the enviable combination of the fully mature voice and the youthful looks needed for the Judaean princess — November 2015, Opera News
Alex Penda mesmerizes, a must-see ‘Salome’ — all lace and libido
… soprano Alex Penda surely could have handled the ten-minute “Dance of the Seven Veils” all on her own, and she rendered the portions of it that emphasized her own movement (choreographed by Sean Curran) with expressive grace. But what hoisted Penda’s portrayal so high were a riveting theatrical presence and a voice unusually well suited to the part. She is a creature of the stage, potentially dangerous even when wearing a gown of lacy white and aqua layers that suggest a virginal Madonna, downright psychotic when stripped down to her slip. I confessed to reservations when Penda appeared here last season as Beethoven’s Leonore, but Salome makes quite different demands and she responded to them marvelously. Her voice was powerful enough to cut through Strauss’s huge orchestra, though with opulence rather than shrillness. Her stamina was such that her interpretation just kept on growing in vocal luxury and in dramatic horror all the way through her daunting final scene, which has left more than a few Salomes gasping for air. — The New Mexican, 19 July 2015
Soprano Alex Penda was vocally strong and physically convincing in the title role — St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 08 August 2015
The Bulgarian soprano Alex Penda is riveting in the title role, with a Niagara of an upper voice range. — Paul Hertelendy, Classical Voice North America, 19 August 2015
Soprano Alex Penda is a dream come true in the punishing role of Salome. She proved her spinto bona fides last season in an equally demanding role: Leonora in Beethoven’s Fidelio. She has the range for Salome, from the alto’s low “G” to the soprano’s high “B,” and the power needed to sing over the humongous orchestra. Also, her slight frame makes her believable as a teenager. — Gregory Sullivan Isaacs, TheaterJones.com, 02 August 2015
Alex Penda not only had the vocal goods for the taxing title role but gave a layered, psychologically complex portrayal, traversing a wide spectrum of contradictory emotions as she sang her twisted Liebestod. — Thomas May, Musical America, 08 August 2015
Petite Alex Penda looks far more plausibly adolescent than the usual Salome, and she certainly incarnates the descent from flirtatiousness and petulance into obsession and out-of-body madness. She also supplies amazing vocal resources appropriate to the moment, from girlish to lusciously womanly, from forceful chest voice to hypnotic whine. — Scott Cantrell, The Dallas Morning News, 07 August 2015
Because her voice has gotten considerably larger, Alex Penda, known for clear coloratura in bel canto roles, has begun to take on more dramatic parts. Salome requires the stamina of a Wagnerian soprano and the scintillating overtones of Penda’s powerful voice soared gracefully over Robertson’s huge orchestra. — Music & Vision, 13 August 2015
Terry Ponick, Communities Digital News
Better yet is soprano Alex Penda, who stars as Strauss’ unsettling title character. We were impressed last season by her performance in the lead role of Beethoven’s “Fidelio” in SFO’s excellent production, but she outdoes herself in “Salome.”
From the outset, Ms. Penda portrays her character as a headstrong, impetuous, yet surprisingly fragile mess. This makes it easier to believe Salome’s gradual slide from infatuation to murderous sexual rage as she finally finds, in the implacable Jochanaan, the first individual in her short life whom she cannot bend to her will.
In so doing, she gives the SFO audience one of the finest and most convincing dramatic performances we’ve seen in many a year, morphing from a foot-stamping teen in the early scenes to a frighteningly out-of-control psychopath at the opera’s conclusion.
Amplifying the chills, Ms. Penda’s expertly-controlled and impressively expansive soprano voice becomes increasingly husky and demanding as the gripping finale approaches, making hers one of the most unnerving “Salomes” we’ve yet had the opportunity to see. It’s a task that’s made all the more difficult by Strauss’ Wagnerian demands on the lead soprano’s voice as the large orchestra swells to its massive, final climax.
The sheer passion of this final outburst leaves the audience feeling simultaneously fulfilled and exhausted. It’s quite an achievement, due in no small part to Ms. Penda’s tremendous energy and dedication to her role. –
Rating: 4 out of 4 stars
07 August 2015
Salomé is a near-Wagnerian role in terms of stamina and dynamic range. She is onstage nearly the entire opera and singing (or dancing) almost continuously.
Bulgarian soprano Alex Penda, last year’s Leonora in “Fidelio,” gives a most creditable performance as the petulant princess. Her voice remains clear and audible over the huge orchestra even to the very end of the demanding triumph she sings to the severed head.
26 July 2015
LA daily post
She (Alex Penda) specializes in roles that require a strong lead and is a vocal powerhouse in a small package. Just prior to her performance Saturday night, she (@alexpanda) tweeted:
“Singing Salome is always thrilling! But now is special – hope to let public feel what I feel and take all this to a very special place tonight!”
By all accounts that special place was fully achieved.
More than most operas, Salome depends on the artist in the title role. She must combine seamlessly the coltish stubbornness of an adolescent with the maturity of a musical genius in full flower. It’s a role Penda was born for.
The performance starred Bulgarian soprano Alex Penda. Her chilling portrayal plumbed the tenets of Freud’s revolutionary theories of human depravity.
Assaying one of the most demanding of dramatic soprano roles after a distinguished career in the bel canto operatic repertory, Penda exhibited a voice that is beautifully expressive with a firmly controlled pianissimo and that is capable of explosive power when expressing Salome’s impatience or rage.
01 August 2015