Terrifying beauty

Review of Salome for the New Statesman

"Contains nudity and violence", cautioned the publicity material for Covent Garden's new production of Salome, rather proudly. As it happens, although the opera's central tableau is basically an extended striptease, the supply of naked flesh here was relatively short. There was, however, plenty of blood, so thrill-seekers in the audience didn't feel short-changed.

The real violence in Salome is of the emotional kind. The central character is a psychotic enfant terrible who famously reveals the depth of her depravity by making love to the severed head of Jokanaan (John the Baptist). But Richard Strauss's opera often prompts contradictory feelings of awe, disgust, love and pity; so much so, that the experience of watching it can be quite overwhelming. Despite everything, it is pity that we eventually feel for the work's demonic heroine...

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