Salome, Coliseum, London

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The Independent Culture

But more than in any other production of the opera that I have seen, Salome - the bravely impressive Cheryl Barker in her role debut - is at such a pitch of delusional ecstasy at this point as to have convinced herself that the head is still very much attached to the body. She cannot understand why the eyes do not look upon her. Everyone else's do. And in that crucial line at the end of her final monologue, she meekly asks if the bitter taste on her lips could be love. Not lust - love.

It is a key moment for Salome - one that might even elicit pity rather than loathing. Barker turned the music tenderly to her advantage here, and in the final triumphant sublimation sang up an absolute storm. She has one of those biggish lyric voices that has not shortened at the top. One longs for a Salome who is able to play more lightly and more tantalisingly on the vocal chords in the earlier stages of the role, but Barker always resisted the temptation to push and retained a touch of girlishness.

The tame, Martha Graham-like gyrations of the all-important dance (choreography Wayne McGregor) would titillate no one - not even Herod - though you could argue that when a man is so desperate for his stepdaughter's attentions, even a fleeting glance might pass for foreplay.

John Graham-Hall was terrific in the role, his bilious words cast like swill before swine. But sung, not stammered out in lazy approximation of the musical line like some one could mention. He and Sally Burgess's tired vamp of a Herodias were truly the marriage made in hell.

So, too, Oscar Wilde and Richard Strauss. The orchestra in this most sickly sweet of scores is the main protagonist, and Kwame Ryan, in an exciting house debut, laid it bare with ruthless efficiency. Would that Leveaux's staging had proved a bolder context for it.

In rep to 17 November (0870 145 0200)

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