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Also published in The Rover.

Goth teenagers loiter around the Grand Vizier’s shopping complex under the aqueduct, then a loopy teen wearing a dozen nighties dances in and gets them killing for her. They do it because she’s so hot. And she’s a princess. Good, right? Now get this, her father wants to get with her, she even strips for him, makes him kill a guy, and then makes out with his severed head!

Upon hearing the pitch for an adaptation of Salome, the Viennese composer Richard Strauss threw a bag of gold coins on the table. Work began immediately.

A week ago I sat in judgment before the result, OdM’s new coproduction (they are all coproductions) of Strauss’s Salomé. This version of the tale comes through Oscar Wilde, which explains in part its ambiguities and comic tendencies. The latter were played out to the audience’s delight in this production, but Salomé is a strange opera; one act about incest and murder and religion. As tragicomedy it is a salty cake.

Salome is the most demanding role onstage; it requires the full triple threat as well as the gumption to get naked. Soprano Nicola Beller Carbone acted magnificently, danced well, and sang plainly in a part she plays regularly to acclaim. Her Salome was petulant and demonic, a workshopped vagina dentatis who grows the last syllables of John’s name.

Bass-baritone Robert Hayward was more vocally impressive as Jokanaan (John the Baptist). His stature and bellows suited the role, heavy with significance, and his Jokanaan brimmed with an anger that I have not heard in the recordings I researched.

Guard captain Narraboth (the supple tenor Roger Honeywell, whose remarkable yearning was probably not just good acting, I think he craved a bigger role) loves Salome to distraction and his pointless suicide is a gem. The corpse is ignored by a dozen people onstage before Herod slips on the blood and asks: “But who is this? I did not order this man killed.”

Herod was sung jovially by tenor John MacMaster in a manner that brought to mind Friar of Tuck of Men in Tights, though Tuck never heard the beating wings of the angel of death (maybe that’s why he drank?). Though this comedy was entirely enjoyable, it did not suit a figure that is essentially tragic. Opposite him, and more than a little off, was mezzo-soprano Judith Forst as Herodias.

Yannick Nézet-Séguin extracted the opera’s musical bursts from the Orchestre Métropolitain quickly and with verve. It was the most enjoyable Strauss I’ve ever heard, though that isn’t saying much. It doesn’t need repeating that Nézet-Séguin should visit more often.