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Strauss' Salome has been subject to much controversy since its first performance in 1905. Based on the scandalous Oscar Wilde play, the opera shocked audiences due to its erotic theme; in fact, it was originally banned from being performed in several major opera houses around the world, including those in Vienna and London. Today, Salome is a staple of operatic repertoire, performed regularly, however with less extreme reactions in regards to its contents and music.
Opera North's visceral concert performance of the opera at the Leeds Town Hall contained some excellent performances
Opera North's visceral concert performance of the opera at the Leeds Town Hall contained some excellent performances, led by the silk-voiced American dramatic soprano Jennifer Holloway, in her Opera North debut as the title heroine. Her booming voice resonated beautifully into the hall, easily surpassing the almost ninety person orchestra (who were performing under the skilled baton of Sir Richard Armstrong). Her spirited portrayal of Salome as an eager, youthful force of nature was very exciting, and had exhilarating chemistry with the rest of the cast.
Arnold Bezuyen, portrayed the harrowing Herod, and was equally captivating, and was contrasted well by Katarina Karneus as Herodias. Both of their interpretations of the characters were very solid, showcasing strong acting abilities. Robert Hayward as Jokanaan (John the Baptist) gave a very strong performance, full of angst and conviction through his deep baritone voice. The supporting cast also sang very well, with Heather Lowe and Oliver Johnston standing out as the Page and Narraboth respectively.
One thing, however, that was missing from this otherwise impressive concert production, was the Dance of the Seven Veils. Salome's dance is so crucial to the plot, and though the music was beautifully performed by itself, it would have been very exciting to see it performed. Regardless, the score itself is served so beautifully by the singers and the orchestra - and it would be worth seeing this production for the final scene alone, for those spine chilling moments of the concert, where Salome's vocal pyrotechnics and the passion of the music come to life.
Salome runs at various venues around the country until May 16th. For more information, please visit Opera North's website.