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Salome, Salome, Salome. What a mess.

Histroically, Herod did not kill his brother to marry Herodias but Herodias did divorce Herod's brother in order to marry him. Before long, Herod starts lusting after his new daughter-in-law, Salome, who happens to be his niece. There’s your “modern family”.

Now add to that, Jokanaan, a prophet who has been living in the wilderness and eating a diet of locusts and wild honey. The locusts and honey aren’t in the opera but if you know your bible, then you know The Baptist was a bug-eater.

The mess was limited to the story since the performances were authoritative.

In her first two productions with San Diego Opera, Lise Lindstrom has portrayed two princesses with a thing for beheadings. As Turandot, she beheaded the Prince of Persia and as Salome, Jokanaan.

Turandot and Salome are different roles but they have striking similarities. Both are motivated by revenge and obsession. Both are young and in power. Both have never experienced love in any form and react violently to its first expressions.

Turandot is the Ice Princess, Salome is the temptress and Lise Lindstrom is phenomenal. We watched Lindstrom transform Salome from a pouting, petulant, teen-ager into a resolved and obsessed adult. Her singing also matched the development of the character. Lindstrom started Salome with a lighter tone and gradually colored it as the character’s obsession grew.

I didn’t notice a great singer or actor, I noticed a character. I saw Salome on the stage. During her adoration of the head, I heard a patron exclaim, "Whoa!" That was an involuntary response to an authentic situation.

The other principals were equally matched to Lindstrom. Hopefully some of the applause from opening night was directed toward general and artistic director, Ian Campbell for assembling the principal quartet of Salome (Lise Lindstrom), Jokanaan (Greer Grimsley), Herod (Allan Glassman), and Herodias (Irina Mishura).

Irina Mishura was making her company debut as Herodias and I hope we see her again—soon. She boozed her way around the stage with the confidence of an overripe beauty who has given up seduction for sarcasm. There were moments when Mishura’s voice threatened to swallow the entire Civic Theater in one glorious gulp.

Allan Glassman, returning to San Diego as Herod, played a despotic politician yet also gave us glimpses of the Herod that ruled Galilee for 42 years under three different Caesars. The temptation would be to play Herod as a fool but Glassman gave us flesh and blood instead of a one-dimensional caricature.

This brings us to Greer Grimsely as Jokanaan. What can I say? Greer Grimsely is a treasure. I’ve watched him sing at San Diego Opera during the past 12 years and I never cease to be amazed. Lise Lindstrom admitted, “We call Greer the voice”. When we first hear the voice he is off stage at the bottom of his cistern. Once he gains the stage, Greer dominates as the man of God.

The remainder of the cast was serviceable except for Sean Panikkar who played the suicidal Naraboth. Panikkar has a pleasing lyrical voice and charming disposition on stage.

Remaining performances are Tuesday the 31st, Friday the 3rd, and Sunday the 5th.

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