When I Looked at You, I Heard Strange Music

But when Herod’s birthday came, the daughter of Herodias danced before the company, and she pleased Herod  so much that he promised on oath to grant her whatever she might ask.  Prompted by her mother, she said, “Give me the head of John the Baptist here on a platter.”   The king was grieved, yet out of regard for his oaths and for the guests, he commanded it to be given;   he sent and had John beheaded in the prison.   The head was brought on a platter and given to the girl, who brought it to her mother."

Those few verses from Matthew, when refracted through the fertile mind of Oscar Wilde and the musical genius of Richard Strauss, become "Salome".  I went to hear the BBC Philharmonic give a concert performance at the Bridgewater Hall tonight, and am still recovering.  No time to summarize the plot, or analyse the themes of the work, although what struck me was how the disordered and misdirected desire that shapes the characterization of everyone on stage: from the opening ‘How beautiful is Princess Salome tonight’ through to the final "I have kissed your mouth Jochanaan", is only confronted from beyond the narrative by the repeated references to Jesus.

But what a performance.  Wonderful, powerful, headache-inducing playing from the orchestra under Gianandrea Noseda, with a great Herod in Peter  Bronder (whom I would love to hear sing Mime).  But the star turn was Salome in the person of Nicola Beller Carbone.  I haven’t heard such a strong vocal performance for ages (ignoring the  early entry in the middle of the chaos, effectively dealt with by Noseda’s hand).  She was amazing.

Don’t believe me?  Well listen for yourself because Radio 3 are broadcasting this very performance on Wednesday.