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Salome review at Royal Opera House, London – ‘fails to deliver’

David Butt Philip and Malin Bystrom in Salome at Royal Opera House, London. Photo: Clive Barda David Butt Philip and Malin Bystrom in Salome at Royal Opera House, London. Photo: Clive Barda
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At 10 years old this year, David McVicar’s staging – and where would the Royal Opera be without him? – has worn well, its interwar look in Es Devlin’s massive but adaptable set creating just the right note of decadence for Wilde’s characters to disport themselves in. The notorious Dance of the Seven Veils, though, is something of a non-event.

Nor is this a vintage cast – at least from a vocal point of view. Malin Bystrom makes a physically credible Salome, if not quite a fascinating one, but her voice refuses to take off in her upper register, where Strauss’ long phrases need it to gleam and bloom.

Michael Volle’s Jokanaan (aka John the Baptist) is a solid, wooden figure with a solid, wooden voice, yet the steely core needed to cut through like a man of God on a mission is not his to command.

John Daszak makes a presentable Herod, but is outshone by Michaela Schuster’s louche Herodias – the only one of the principals really to seize her opportunities.

Rising star tenor David Butt Philip makes surprisingly little impression on this occasion as Narraboth; even the character’s suicide – a crucial moment in the steady downwards trajectory of the piece – goes for little, while Christina Bock is an anonymous Page.

Part of the reason the pudding fails to rise lies is the conducting of Henrik Nanasi, which delivers in terms of balance in a score where it is all too easy to overload the textures, yet lacks the sense of driving inexorably towards the terrible goal that the piece requires. Despite the high level of focus in the orchestral playing itself, for once this is an evening where what one sees exceeds what one hears.

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Revival of David McVicar’s 10-year-old production that fails to deliver the musical goods