Salome at the London Coliseum
Conductor Martyn Brabbins brings Richard Strauss’s gorgeous music to life once again in his third production as Music Director at the ENO. Skilfully leading the members of the orchestra through the uncomfortably eerie score of Salome, he successfully incorporates all the necessary finesse with the perfect timing and precision demanded by the challenging opera, making this a performance to be remembered.
Based on Oscar Wilde’s play of the same name, the opera tells the story of Salome (Allison Cook), stepdaughter of King Herod (Michael Colvin), whose greedy stares towards her have already caused many an argument with his wife and Salome’s mother, Herodias (Susan Bickley). Things quickly go astray when Herod is overwhelmed by his desire for the princess, who herself is enthralled by the imprisoned prophet Jokanaan (David Saor), whose life’s mission is to proclaim the coming of the new Messiah.
The excellent cast captures the audience from the start. Especially Cook, making her ENO debut in the challenging role as Salome, sings with an incredible passion, portraying perfectly the uncanny nature of her character as a hopelessly doomed lover and victim of Herod’s corruption. Saor’s prowess is equally engaging, delivering succinctly all the necessary solemnity and frustration of an imprisoned wandering prophet, and Colvin interprets convincingly the absurdity and overwhelming hedonism of the king.
The production itself, directed by Adena Jacobs, is more of a mixed blessing. Featuring some moments of brilliance – such as an ingenious use of lighting with Salome’s shadow reflecting on the white wall in the background when she tries to seduce Jokanaan – much of it feels more conventional in following current tastes than boldly new. At other times some of the decisions are too over-the-top and obvious, robbing the complex story of the necessary subtlety the opera deserves. This is particularly the case during the Dance of the Seven Veils, which in Jacobs’s staging is a mix of slow movements by Salome and erratic cheerleader-style choreography by a group of dancers otherwise unrelated to the plot. Nevertheless, when the director’s show works, it is superb, enchanting the audience with a challenging dream-like stage design.
Overall, the ENO’s production of Salome is a smashing success despite some flaws, providing the onlookers with a night full of passionate desire, rising stakes, uncomfortable family relations and sinister ambitions, guaranteeing a tremendous satisfaction.
Photos: Catherine Ashmore
Salome is at the London Coliseum from 28th September until 23rd October 2018. Book your tickets here.
Watch the trailer for Salome here: