This innovative production of the Richard Strauss opera, inspired by the Oscar Wilde play, was staged by Teatro Comunale di Bologna and broadcast on Italian television in 2010, but is only now being made available on U.S. DVD.
Stage director Gabriele Lavia offers a modern dress presentation, and the story’s wild mix of envelope-pushing political, religious and emotional obsessions has a strong resonance in a contemporary world that is often terrified of ideas that dare to challenge the comfortable status quo. Set designer Alessandro Camera creates an astonishing opening sequence with a huge crack in the floor of the stage, symbolizing the pit into which Jochanaan (John the Baptist to English-speaking viewers) is imprisoned – as if the complacency of Herod’s court has been cracked open by ideas that the ruler futilely attempts to bury.
Erika Sunnegardh’s Salome is a bold mix of physical sophistication – she would easily be at home on any modern-day red carpet setting – and internal confusion. Her fascination with the imprisoned Jochanaan (played with intellectual ferocity by a hirsute Mark S. Doss) and her inability to grasp his religious mania ignites a riot of feelings that ultimately leads to the celebrated sexually-charged dance that brutally seals the prophet’s doom.
TV director Andrea Bevilacqua captures this fascinating interpretation of Strauss’ celebrated work with grace and style, resulting in a magical viewing experience.