Opera North returns to Leeds Town Hall with the thrilling Salome. Described as opera at its most extreme, the bloody tale is wrapped up into 100 intense and exhilarating minutes. Opera North’s Press Officer Elizabeth Simmonds explains why Salome is the ‘must see’ production this month.
If you’ve never tried opera before, this month provides the perfect opportunity to experience its staggering musical power with a concert staging of Richard Strauss’ Salome in the wonderful surroundings of Leeds Town Hall.
Need convincing? Leeds-based opera company, Opera North, have put together their top 10 reasons for giving it a go:
1. You may well recognise the plot
Strauss based his opera on a play by Oscar Wilde which was in turn inspired by a story in the Bible. In the opera, Salome, the teenage step-daughter of King Herod, agrees to perform the Dance of the Seven Veils for him on one condition: that she is given the severed head of the imprisoned prophet, Jokanaan (John the Baptist). To complicate matters, Salome is an object of fascination and lust for both the guard Narraboth and for Herod himself.
2. It’s sensational stuff
The opera caused a sensation when it was first performed over 100 years ago and still has the power to shock today. This is a story about a girl’s struggle to regain some power after it’s been wrongly taken from her by those who should be her protectors. The tragedy for Salome is that, in her revenge, she destroys the very thing she loves.
3. All the drama’s packed into an hour and a half
Salome is only 100 minutes long. Be prepared to experience all the action in one go as there’s no interval to detract from the tension and drama.
4. You get to see a full orchestra close up
As this is a concert staging, it means that the Orchestra of Opera North will be playing in full view of the audience, not in the orchestra pit as is usually the case. That means everyone in the hall can experience the full force of the music which is …
5. … amazing! The magnificently rich and intricate score is both ferociously exciting and surprisingly lyrical, building to a feverish climax which has never lost its ability to chill the blood.
6. You’ll hear the stunning sound of the Chorus of Opera North
The orchestra will be joined by the Chorus of Opera North whose voices are definitely a force to be reckoned with – and not a microphone in sight.
7. There’s a truly international cast
It’s a chance to hear a truly international cast including American soprano Jennifer Holloway who will be making her Opera North debut as Salome.
She will be joined by the Dutch tenor Arnold Bezuyen, Swedish mezzo Katarina Karnéus and British baritone Robert Hayward.
9. Sir Richard Armstrong returns to conduct
The production sees the return of conductor Sir Richard Armstrong CBE who enthralled audiences last year when he conducted Turandot at Leeds Town Hall.
10. It’s a chance to look like a classical music buff
It’s an opportunity to show off your Strauss knowledge as, chances are, when you talk about an opera by Strauss, someone will mention waltzes. These were actually composed by a totally different Strauss – Johann.
11. It’s in one of the city’s most incredible buildings
The concert staging is being performed in the amazing ornate surroundings of the Grade 1-listed Town Hall, an architectural gem which is well worth a visit in its own right. Queen Victoria opened the building in 1858 and it’s had a long and illustrious history since then, including housing an ARP (Air Raid Precautions) post in the crypt during the war. There are even some old prison cells underneath the front steps dating from 1864 and still with their original toilets and shackles intact! Nowadays, however, you’re more likely to bump into a couple getting married than a convict, and it’s one of the best venues in the city to experience live classical music.
Salome opens at Leeds Town Hall on Thursday 19 April at 7.30pm. Further performances are at 4pm on Sunday 22 April and 7.30pm on Wednesday 25 April. The production will subsequently tour to Perth, Warwick, Gateshead (when Giselle Allen will sing Salome), Liverpool and Hull. More information and tickets are available from www.operanorth.co.uk.
Elizabeth’s current day job is with Opera North where she has developed a love of opera alongside her passion for drama, books and the visual arts. When she’s not browsing clothes shops with her teenage daughter, she enjoys searching out, and writing about, the best things around to read and see – giving her the perfect excuse to explore every bookshop, theatre, cinema and art gallery she discovers.