Victorian Opera, The Palais, St Kilda, Until Feb 27
When an opera ends in a teenager doing a striptease for her stepfather and kissing the severed head of a holy man, a scandalous reception can hardly come as a surprise. Strauss’s opera, based on Oscar Wilde’s version of the biblical story of Salome, has been entertaining and disgusting audiences since its 1905 premiere. Despite extraordinary demands on the cast and orchestra, Victorian Opera’s vocal and musical presentation of Salome is world-class. The production, however, is not.
The plot follows Salome, who is infatuated with John the Baptist (Jochanaan), a prisoner of her stepfather, King Herod of Judea. Herod lusts after Salome, saying he’ll give her anything she wants if she’ll dance for him. Cue the famous Dance of the Seven Veils, which Salome completes and demands Jochanaan’s head on a silver platter. What unfolds is dazzling and disturbing.