Ireland in uproar over nude Salome

Ireland in uproar over nude Salome


norman lebrecht

February 04, 2015

Northern Ireland Opera has sent out an email to people who have bought tickets to its forthcoming Richard Strauss opera, advising them of a late change in the production: ‘The dancer playing Salome will now appear nude for the last 10 seconds of the Dance’.

NI Opera added: ‘This change represents Salome in an image of stark vulnerability. We believe it adds significantly to the artistic value of the performance.’

Clergy are leading a thunder of protest. The Rev David McIlveen said: ‘The attempt by the production team to sensualise the story through the inclusion of a nudity scene is in my view designed to deflect the minds of the audience away from a most solemn truth.’

Look away now.

salome northern ireland



Salome: Giselle Allen
Herod: Michael Colvin
Jokanaan: Robert Hayward
Herodias: Heather Shipp
Narraboth: Adrian Dwyer
Page: Carolyn Dobbin


  • PrewarTreasure says:

    This cannot be a big deal – surely?

    I recall Maria Ewings’ brief flash at the ROH Covent Garden some years ago. A few prudes made adverse comments at the time, I recall, more even than at David McVicar’s terrific but controversial production in recent years (which, BTW, I saw 3 times with the amazing Nadja Michael in the title role)

    The RC clergy are in NO position to criticise ANYONE, given recent ‘events’ which I need not mention!

  • mr oakmount says:

    A nude Salome? Oh, no, what will be next?
    A sister making love to her brother? A son killing his foster father?
    Let’s hope the Rev David McIlveen never finds out about Wagner’s Ring; they won’t survive the shock. But at least there’s no smoking in any of these operas …

  • Mark says:

    It says ‘the dancer playing Salome will now appear nude for the last 10 seconds’. So maybe it’s not actually the soprano Giselle Allen?

  • Giles Harrison says:

    Isn’t the removal of veils and therefore becoming nude the whole point of the dance? Surely opera houses should email when there isn’t nudity in Salome, though I was surprised at the ROH jailer having it all hanging out after beheading Salome.

  • Hank Drake says:

    If there is a great beyond, you can be assured Oscar Wilde is having a laugh about this tempest in a teapot.

  • Alexander says:

    I think it’s something of an exaggeration to say “Ireland in uproar”. The Free Presbyterian Church of Ulster accounts for approximately 0.8% of the population of Northern Ireland and approximately 0.2% of the population of the whole island of Ireland. I suspect that a very small proportion of its members have much, if any, interest in opera. The largest denomination in Northern Ireland (though not an absolute majority) is the Catholic Church, which is also by a long margin the majority denomination in the Republic. The Catholic Church in Ireland is, contrary to what people may assume, in fact now distinguished by a marked trend towards liberalism, especially among the clergy. Irish attitudes towards nudity in opera will not be significantly different to attitudes in any other liberal western society.

  • Eric Edwards says:

    Can I get a front row seat??


  • Neil van der Linden says:

    NB Belfast is not in Ireland, but in Northern Ireland, or Ulster, part of the UK. However traditionally both Northern-Ireland and Ireland are religiously conservative, so the Republic might have taken offense that such a things was happening so nearby. Maybe however the clergy of the Republic is not even pleased not to be able to accuse the clergy of the sinful Protestants of the North of not minding.

    • Alexander says:

      That is not strictly correct. “Ireland” refers to both the island of Ireland and to a republic called Ireland (commonly, but erroneously, called the Republic of Ireland or the Irish Republic), which occupies the southern and western parts of the island. While all of Northern Ireland is within Ulster, it is not the case that all of Ulster is within Northern Ireland, as the counties of Cavan, Donegal, and Monaghan are part of Ireland.

      • Prewartreasure says:

        A rgem for ‘Pseud’s Corner’, Private Eye (which’ll be lost on our American friends.)

        • Alexander says:

          That’s nothing like the sort of stuff that turns up in Pseud’s Corner. I was just clarifying that the statement, ‘Belfast is not in Ireland, but in Northern Ireland, or Ulster, part of the UK’, contains several errors.

  • Lloyd Thoms, US says:

    Can Giselle Allen sing the role?

  • Gav says:

    it reminds me a bit of edinburgh councillor moira knox who was famous for causing ‘scandalous’ shows to sell out at the festival – inadvertently of course …. ! i suspect this rev will have helped to sell a few more seats too:)

  • David Boxwell says:

    Holy Mary, Mother of God! Saints preserve us! Hasn’t the Emerald Isle suffered enough for four centuries without this shameless, godless young Jezebel sensualizing the sensual opera of a sensual teenager, a wicked lass who should be in a convent communing with her Lord God, Father of Us All, rather than sensually dancing her brazen display of lust-consumed sensuality. All those who witness this spectacle deserve the eternal damnation of the smoky, sulfurous pits of Hell!

  • Michael Lee says:

    “Ireland in uproar”? The first I’d heard about it, here in Dublin, was on this page – so no need to get carried away. The Northerners have their acts of public provocation down to a fine art, and one must learn to read them with care. Hopefully this little upset on the pages of the Belfast Telegraph has helped sell the last remaining tickets… Some may recall a fine ‘Salome’ performed by Opera Ireland back in 1999, which attracted reasonable houses and passed without comment from clergy (of any denomination) or anyone else.

  • Igor Kennaway says:

    This is hardly earth-shattering and who cares anyway? Let those who object stay away. It’s only opera after all! What about all the nudes in paintings adorning the walls of international mueums? Or maybe this ‘uproar’ is but a true mark of provincialism. I would add that killing each other based on religious bigotry is profoundly obscene.

    • Alexander says:

      I hardly see that this is an example of provincialism. The “uproar” is actually a statement by a clergyman from a denomination that represents approximately 0.8% of the population of Northern Ireland. I suspect that you could easily find a minister (Christian, Muslim, or Jewish) representing less than 1% of Londoners who would happily say the same thing.

  • Ron Everett says:

    From the USA. Marvelous! The Comments are great. I guess that front row seat is gone by now. Darn.

  • Alexander says:

    It’s funny, the assumptions people make about Ireland and the Catholic Church (for a start, the assumption that this story has anything to do with the Catholic Church). Mr McIlveen’s view are in no way representative of opinion in Ireland, on either side of the border. This is the same Mr McIlveen who once took out a newspaper advert reading, “The word of God against sodomy”, and won a case in the High Court against a decision by the Advertising Standards Authority to ban its publication. I am sure that a large majority of the Irish could not give two hoots about a little nudity in an opera. Indeed, the opera is based on a play by an Irishman! As for Catholic priests, they tend to be very intelligent chaps with a good classical and philosophical education as a foundation for their theological training, and any whom I have known have been knowledgeable about things like music, art, and literature. In fact, one of the most intelligent and well informed conversations I remember having about art and pornography was with my Greek teacher, a priest and monk who was at the time in his late 60s. I fear that some people who make observations about Catholics have probably not met one since before the Second Vatican Council!

  • Dave T says:

    “Deflect the minds of the audience away from a most solemn truth.”
    What would that be? Bombastic pomposity and vain musical showmanship?

  • C Lawlor says:

    Saying Ireland is in uproar is a massive stretch…it’s a very small group of religious nuts in Northern Ireland.