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A creditable performance

Richard Strauss's 'Salome' at English National Opera,
reviewed by ROBERT HUGILL


Richard Strauss left opera companies a conundrum in his opera Salome. The title role calls for a singer who looks like a sixteen year old girl but who has the voice of a helden-sopran. In the past it was acceptable for mature, Wagnerian sopranos to appear in the role; but nowadays, in our form conscious age, it is usual for the singer to be able to embody Salome's physical sexuality even if it is at some musical cost.

Cheryl Barker would seem to be a director's dream Salome, singing the role for the first time (in ENO's revival of its 1996 David Leveaux production, seen on Friday 28 October 2005). Possessed of a voice which rides the orchestra with relative ease whilst retaining its attractive lyric qualities; she is undoubtedly fair of form and easily encompasses Salome's physical sexuality. Her interpretation will, in time, deepen into a striking one but at present there was something a little superficial about her dramatic performance. Perhaps she needs the sort of extended period of work with a major director, which is not possible with such a revival of an existing production. (The director for this revival was Leah Hausman.)

For much of the opera she sounded and looked ravishing but though she tried hard, Salome's neurotic intensity was missing. This only really developed in the awful final scene where Barker finally abandoned herself lasciviously, caressing Jokanaan's severed head.

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Copyright © 2 November 2005 Robert Hugill, London UK


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