Salomé: Kiss of the original spiderwoman

By TERRY MATHEWS, News-Telegram Arts Editor

Feb. 4, 2008 - If you should ever run into the biblical princess Salomé, and she wants to touch your hair or kiss your lips, my advice is to let her. It's the only way to keep your head attached to your shoulders.

The Dallas Opera's production of Salomé, the one-act Richard Strauss libretto based on a French play by Oscar Wilde, has two remaining performances, Wednesday and Saturday nights. The show is not for the faint of heart - or for people who really love opera, come to think of it. Nothing, save the glorious opera orchestra under the superb direction of maestro Graeme Jenkins, really worked during Sunday's matinee. 

Salomé is one spoiled brat. She sets her sights on the imprisoned John the Baptist (Robert Hayward). He wants nothing to do with her. She throws a deadly hissy fit, but Russian soprano Mlada Khudoley, while in fine voice, delivers a one-dimensional performance.

The setting has been moved from ancient days to the 1920s. Soldiers looking like members of the French Foreign Legion strut on stage, pointing their rifles at anything that moves. Imagine how confused John the Baptist must have been when he was brought up from a pit in the middle of the stage, only to find himself set upon by a teenage hussy ... and him without his shirt. A soldier impales himself on a short sword. A dagger floats near the spiral runway.  The moon turns red. 

Much has been made of the opera's famous "dance of the seven veils," where Salomé does a striptease for King Herod, her stepfather. In return, he promises to deliver the head of John the Baptist to her on a silver platter. 

First of all, there weren't seven veils. I think she took off two, if you don't count her bra and undies. A long gold lamé veil was paraded around by six studly dancers whose main purpose was to carry large oval mirrors strapped to their backs. To be honest, Herod seemed more interested in the boys than in Salomé. He sprinkled fairy dust after the dance. Go figure.

Even the brief peek of Ms. Khudoley in the altogether (from the back) is not enough to save the show.

When the prophet's bloody head is finally delivered up to her from the pit, Salomé kisses it, caresses it as she proudly sings that no matter what, she gets what she wants. Then, she goes mad. By that time, no one in the auditorium cares.

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