First things first. This particular outing to the Royal Opera was top draw, really top draw. There i was sauntering up to my lowly standing position in the Balcony area for which I'd paid a very reasonable £9. No sooner had I started to settle than a very nice member of the ROH staff came up to me and offered me a central Balcony seat worth a whopping £106!Well as you can imagine I was straight in there. It makes a difference you know when you sit in these immensely expensive seats - I'm not sure quite a £97 difference, but a difference at any rate. There's a lesson to be learnt here: If you can nab a cheap standing ticket for a production that's not selling well, you could end up with a very nice upgrade (then again, perhaps I was just lucky with the staff on Tuesday night).
Right, back to the opera: Salome by R.Strauss (not to be confused with the multitude of other Strauss' out there). It's based on Oscar Wilde's play of the same name, which is in turn based on a biblical story I believe. This particular production is set in the 1920s/30s in the home of a wealthy family (The Telegraph described the main character as being similar to a Nazi starlet, one that invites Jewish guests over for dinner at any rate). For some reason this wealthy family have a man, John the Baptist, hiding in a celler beneath the house. A bit odd in my opinion, but there we go. Salome develops a very unhealthy obsession with John the Baptist, a very unhealthy obsession indeed. This obsession grows after John the Baptist refuses to kiss Salome, which was a big mistake for poor John. Playing up to her stepfather, Herod, who offers to grant her any wish, Salome demands that he bring her the head of John the Baptist. A demand she refuses to let go of until her stepfather gives in and orders a naked thug to go into the basement to bring the requested head. It all gets very grisly from here on in, as you can see in the above picture. It gets a bit too much for poor old Herod too, so he decides to add to the blood bath and commands that the naked thug, now covered in blood, kill Salome. THE END.
That is obviously a very simplistic breakdown of the plot but It was all pretty intense stuff set against some brilliant music. This is the third German language opera I've seen now, the first that isn't Wagner, and I've realised how beautiful German can be when sung, right up there with Italian. I really enjoyed this production as well. The setting in the home of a wealthy family was good, and I liked the 1920s/30s feel too. One of my favorite scenes was actually a 'dance' performed by Salome and Herod. I say 'dance' because it was more about the staging dancing than the characters. It was a psychological trip through Salome's life and her relationship with her stepfather. David McVicar uses a range of different images and lighting to portray this whilst sections of the scenery move across the stage. I really enjoyed it, it fitted the accompanying music perfectly.
All in all I enjoyed Salome, and not just because of the seat upgrade! It was certainly different from much of the other opera i've seen this year, both in terms of the story and the music. It might not be for everyone as it's a pretty intense show, but it's short (1hr 45mins) and snappy and perhaps a good introduction to non-Italian/less mainstream opera.
Seat: B2 originally, but upgraded to C43, Balcony ***** (The second best seat i've ever had at the ROH after The Tsars Bride Stalls seat. Brilliant view!)
Synopsis: Salome (Wikipedia)
NEXT OPERA: La boheme, 23rd June (take two with opera's star couple Angela Gheroghiu and Roberto Alagna - done well, this could be THE event of the year, stay tuned!)