Strauss’s Salome review: Royal Opera House, London | Theatre | Entertainment

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She plays like a cat with the prophet’s head, finally rolling on the floor in a necrophiliac embrace.

You can see a video of the gory scene in the Victoria and Albert Museum’s exhibition Opera: Passion, Power and Politics. Strauss’s opera, based on Oscar Wilde’s notorious play, centres on the moral corruption at the core of Herod’s kingdom.

Es Devlin’s 1930s fascist-style set catches a tantalising glimpse of the lavish banquet upstairs as Herod and his Queen Herodias entertain their guests.

Down in the cellars the guards mock Jokanaan (John The Baptist) in his dungeon.

Salome, escaping downstairs from the party and the lascivious gaze of her stepfather, becomes sexually obsessed by Jokanaan and is furious when the stern prophet rejects her advances.

Swedish soprano Malin Byström is coruscating in the title role as a spoilt brat who is also an abused child.

Byström manages to look like a fragile 16-year-old, but she fills the auditorium as she triumphantly sings to the head that can no longer deny her a kiss.

Baritone Michael Volle returns as a formidable Jokanaan. Tenor John Daszak is suitably sleazy as Herod and mezzo-soprano Michaela Schuster brings a comedic edge to venal Herodias.

The Orchestra of the Royal Opera House under conductor Henrik Nánási brings out the richly coloured tapestry of Strauss’s score, with its haunting woodwind notes and tumultuous brass. It ends January 30. 

Strauss’s Salome – Royal Opera House, London WC2

Tickets: 020 7304 4000/roh.org.uk; £80-£125



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