Salome by the English National Opera
For those opera lovers expecting a standard fayre Salome, this production is not for you.
ENO have secured the services of the young Australian Opera Director, Adena Jacobs. The risk was awarded with an evening of ‘blood, gore and much, much more’. On stage there was so much going on that it was hard to catch it all. Some of the images worked and some didn’t and this was not by any means the perfect performance- but it was an exciting evening nevertheless.
The production was challenging, expressive, new and up-to-date and enabled the audience to wallow in the nastiness of this opera with nearly two hours of fulsome powerful music.
Jacobs and her designer, Marg Horwell, gave us a surfeit of thoughts and ideas throughout the evening. They produced a pink My Little Pony without a head – a half-naked Salome and Herod – videoing of Jokanaan’s singing from a mouth camera projected onto the back wall – Salome’s reaction to Jokanaan telling her to ‘seek HIM’ by the sea, resulting in her masturbating – blood everywhere as Herod attempted to swim in it on stage – and so on.
The Dance of the Seven Veils was not really Salome’s dance, but that of four substitutes gyrating on stage, almost as if they were in a pilates class with Salome watching and somehow attached to them on the pink pony!
The Salome of Allison Cook was a fulsome and fresh interpretation of this role. She is naturally a mezzo soprano and therefore doesn’t have the largest soprano voice for this role, but she has got a wonderful ability to interpret the role and its movements, which she did admirably throughout the evening. The Jokanaan of David Soar, initially wearing red high heeled shoes, was at first amplified and thereafter sung with great resonance, even though the high lying role did not seem to sit comfortably for him. The Herod and Herodias of Michael Colvin and Susan Bickley respectively were well matched as were the voices of the Narraboth of Stuart Jackson and the Page of Claire Presland.
Musically the evening was outstandingly interpreted by ENO’s Music Director and Conductor, Martyn Brabbins, who gave us a substantial rendering of the score, even if at times, and particularly with Salome, the substance somewhat overpowered the voice.