Based on Oscar Wilde’s controversial play, Richard Strauss’s opera version of Salome is revived at the ENO’s London Coliseum as part of their new season. Following a princess used to getting her own way, the thrilling opera sees her life twisted and formed for her, until she grabs the power in her own hands.
Oscar Wilde couldn’t resist the combination of femininity and power in biblical story Salome, and neither could librettist Richard Strauss. After seeing Wilde’s play, which was banned from being published in the UK, Strauss began working on an opera adaptation. The single-act opera shocked audiences for its overt, sexualised violence but is now commonly performed all over the world.
Set in Herod’s palace, Narraboth pines over the Salome, the daughter of Queen Herodias and stepdaughter to King Herod. Beneath his feet, the prophet Jocanaan is imprisoned. Salome demands to meet the jailed man, who she finds utterly compelling, but he rejects her. When Herod makes advances on his wife’s daughter, Salome in turn rejects him. The young woman manipulates his lust to her favour, but the resulting actions end in disaster.
Casting includes Allison Cook as Salome, alongside David Soar, Michael Colvin, Susan Bickley, Stuart Jackson, Clare Presland, Simon Shibambu, Ronald Nairne, Daniel Norman, Christopher Turner, Alun Rhys-Jenkins, Jonathan Lemalu, Robert Winslade Anderson, Adam Sullivan, Trever Bowes, and Ceferina Penny.
Salome is conducted by Martyn Brabbins, with direction by Adena Jacobs. Jacobs hails from Australia, where she has directed a wide variety of theatre and opera with a focus on re-framing classical works. Marg Horwell and Lucy Carter make up the design team, with Melanie Lane choreographing and Tom Hammond translating.
A historically controversial opera that features the notorious “Dance of the Seven Veils”, Salome is challenging for the performers but invites them to bring their own, distinct characterisations to the roles. This production frames the titular character as a victim of the patriarchy, a particularly prescient interpretation for this age. Salome runs at the London Coliseum from 28 September to 23 October 2018.