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Friday, June 8, 2012
If you’re easily offended, don’t go and see Salome.
The story itself is ages old and Richard Strauss’s operatic adaptation of Oscar Wilde’s 1894 play has been around for more than 100 years.
But even in 21st century London the bloody and violent tale of erotic obsession still has the power to shock.
Wilde’s play endured its fair share of controversy; it was banned while in the rehearsal stage in 1892 on the basis that it was illegal to portray biblical characters on stage.
Strauss’s production also ran into difficulties in its infancy when soprano Marie Wittich refused to perform the dance of the seven veils, making it necessary for a dancer fill in for her.
The dance is not performed in the ROH’s current production. Instead Salome (Angela Denoke) and Herod (Stig Andersen) move through a dream-like sequence, punctuated by huge projections, during which his lust for his step-daughter is saited, although Denoke keeps her clothes on.
Having fulfilled her promise to “dance” for the Tetrarch, Salome insists the object of her obsession is delivered to her.
An earlier scene sees the prophet Jokanaan (Egils Silins) reject Salome’s advances and, in a bid for revenge at being spurned coupled with a desire to own what she covets, the princess demands his head on a silver platter.
The scene that follows shows Salome’s dark obsession in all its bloody glory as she cradles Jokanaan’s head, kissing his lips - before she herself is dispatched by a very naked and very bloody Naaman (Duncan Meadows).