Director: David McVicar
Designs: Es Devlin
Lighting: Wolfgang Gobbel
Choreography: Andrew George
Video Design: Leo Warner and Mark Grimmer
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Royal Opera House
Covent Garden, February 2008
David McVicar's production of Strauss' Salome opened on February 21st 2008 at the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden.
Designed by Es Devlin with whom Fifty Nine Productions worked on Carmen at the ENO, Salome features original footage shot by Fifty Nine Productions' team, for the famous Dance of the Seven Veils scene.
For more information visit the Royal Opera House website
'In a striking piece of psychological staging, McVicar has Salome lead Herod – and us – down the darkest corridors of her soul. For seven veils read seven rooms. A series of video projections chronicle her development. In the first, we see a rag doll on a chair. Salome sits on daddy's knee just the way he likes it. Very unsettling. By the finish, she wears a ball gown and, true to the spirit of the waltz her music enshrines, takes to the floor with daddy, spinning free only to douse herself in water – a literal and symbolic cleansing. This rite of passage unlocks her deepest desires. The abused child becomes the abuser – and how.'
'The only time in the 100-minute piece that Es Devlin's artfully distressed set disappears, to be replaced by an Expressionist dreamworld, is when Salome is left alone with her drooling stepfather for the celebrated dance.
As always, McVicar responds shrewdly to the music, a raunchy pastiche of Middle Eastern delights dashed off by the composer at the last minute. Tetrarchan pederasty replaces the usual sultry seduction as Herod plays with his stepdaughter's cuddly toys, then gets her to sit on his knee. Far from disrobing, she upgrades frocks with his help while lizard-like zips are slowly unfastened in creepy back-projections. This Salome not so much dances her way through seven veils as shimmies through seven chambers of Herod's warped mind, as if roaming another Duke Bluebeard's Freudian castle.'
'[McVicar's] most penetrating observations are reserved for the Dance of the Seven Veils. Far from being a seductive solo for soprano, it becomes Herod’s dance as much as Salome’s: father and daughter go through an Oedipal mime with child’s doll, wedding dress and romantic pas de deux, accompanied by projections of dress-unzipping that make plain this is a fantasy of sexual infatuation and initiation.'
'In the 'Dance of the Seven Veils' McVicar pulls out all the stops to engage and illuminate the audience. The stage suddenly dissolves to leave us with a series of dream-like sequences, realised with impeccable stylishness. Herod and Salome travel through these together with a weariness that suggests this is a joint ritual, rehearsed with tedious regularity, that has long lost its meaning. They pass from one room to another: there's a childish game with a rag-doll in one, a mirror and a veil in another. Salome strips off in the next, only to be helped back into a different white dress by Herod before they waltz together lazily against the projection of a chandelier. There's a room full of what look like wedding dresses before, finally, against a projection of a swinging light bulb, Salome throws water over herself from a surgical basin as the bulb smashes behind them.'
'The evening’s coup de theatre [comes] when Salome’s dance for Herod leads them both through seven rooms that move from the wings to centre stage. The dance itself, though, in Andrew George’s choreography, is more a review of Salome’s psychological past, with video images suggesting an abusive relationship with her stepfather.'
'[McVicar] brilliantly avoids the cliche potential of the so-called Seven Veils sequence by turning Salome into Herod's private dancer, as they wander through seven rooms in the palace, as if exploring the deepest recesses of the psyche, regressing to disturbing memories of child abuse. This Salome clutches her doll and sits on her groping stepfather's lap before waltzing with him in the Rosenkavalieresque triple-time sequence of the famous orchestral interlude. This is perhaps the most arresting episode in an...undeniably handsome-looking staging.'