So apparently this opera "Salome" by Richard Strauss is somewhat controversial.

I went with some apprehension, especially since there is typically some nudity and well, this is Minnesota. We're nice here. And by nice I mean we don't like to ruffle feathers. Like I said:  we're nice. So it would come as no surprise that the Minnesota Opera announced ahead of time that there will be nudity in the 5th and final production of this 2010-2011 season. So I went prepared. I packed up my Minnesota Nice (even though I'm from Wisconsin) and headed over to the Ordway.

What I wasn't prepared for was the convincing craziness of the main character, played by Mlada Khudoley. Then there's the smitten Narraboth (played, I might add proudly, by my fellow Manhattan School of Music grad Christian Reinert), who kills himself because, well, he thinks this may have some kind of positive effect on Salome. And of course the original perv himself:  Herod, played fantastically by Dennis Petersen.

From the very informative and educational Opera Insights beforehand, I knew the infamous Dance of the Seven Veils was to entice her step-father, Herod, to do what she wanted, namely behead John the Baptist so she could--ahem--make out with his severed head...(and no, we don't do those kinds of things here. It's not nice.) So Herod bugs Salome into dancing for him, and she turns the dance into a pretty convincing argument. Eventually came the infamous dance. Salome danced. Three dancers joined her. Off came pieces of her costume, one by one, veils used by the dancers to create sweeping images. Then the rest of Salome's costume came off, and then she was dressed again.

There wasn't that much nudity. Phew! Out came the Minnesota Nice again and off came John the Baptist's head!

What ensued was one of the most enthralling, disturbing, and grotesquely fascinating opera experiences I've ever had. It was fantastic, truly fantastic, and if you want to see something that will get under your skin and then dissipate when the curtain comes down, I highly suggest you take your Minnesota Nice to the Ordway to catch one of the last two performances of Salome. It's a romance with a severed head, dripping superbly with blood. (Whoops--I gave something away...that wasn't very nice of me.) Salome was so crazy she totally had me convinced--and the standing ovation the cast received at the end was absolutely earned and deserved. It's a 90-minute roller coaster ride that had me convinced from the very beginning.

Salome's final performances are at The Ordway on April 20th and 24th.


P.S. Jason Howard (John the Baptist), if you read this:  Your "Niemals!" was one of the best lines I've ever heard in an opera. I was the one who laughed so loudly in the silence...