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Danish baritone Johan Reuter loses his head

One of the biggest challenges of the baritone repertoire is John the Baptist in Strauss's Salome: Bryn Terfel is most people's Covent Garden benchmark, and after him the gigantic Michael Volle. Stepping into Volle's shoes tomorrow – in the first revival of David McVicar's decadent Thirties production – is the Danish baritone Johan Reuter.

Reuter describes his own personal challenge thus: "Finding the balance between being something almost ghostly – a wounded, exhausted person coming out of a hole in the ground, knowing he is to die – and at the same time justifying the fantastic thoughts Salome has of him. Of his beautiful hair, and his beautiful lips – even though those things are not what the audience sees. She's seeing something that's not there, but we have to show where her fascination comes from. The world this Salome inhabits is about sex, alcohol, being bored – and very little else. But she's not stupid – she sees something in him."

Reuter has a big presence, and enjoys the distinction of being Covent Garden's current poster-boy. So how did he end up in opera? "Being a choirboy in Copenhagen. Choral singing always seemed a nice thing to do, but when my voice broke I was told my baritone stood out too much, so I had no option but to become a soloist." Well, the money's somewhat better.

Royal Opera House, London WC2 (Roh.org.uk) 3 to 16 July