Who is Salome? A budding woman discovering her sexuality? A spoiled brat with anger management issued? An erotically carnivorous femme fatale? For Claus Guth, director of the Deutsche Oper Berlin’s new production and one of the keenest practitioners of Regietheater, she’s a young woman breaking free from her sexually abusive stepfather and leaving home.
Like his recent Salzburg Fidelio, many of the characters here also were doubled or shadowed either by extras or other identically-clad characters; like his take on Britten’s Turn of the Screw at the Staatsoper, his narrative of innocence betrayed had elements of gothic horror.
On the vast stage of Deutsche Oper, Guth built up a high-end men’s clothing boutique. The mid-century costumes furniture and costumes (both by Muriel Gerstner) are blandly conformist, creating a false sense of normalcy. The full set is only revealed in the opera’s second half, with Herodes’ entrance. Up until that point, the action plays played out on a darkened stage where all the characters, with the exception of Salome and Jochannan, moved jerkily and stiffly like mannequins brought to life. One of the most impressive touches is a wind-up toy pantomime for Herodes and Herodias and a delicately choreographed procession of Salomes aged 6 to 16 that appeared and vanished during the Dance of the Seven Veils.