Salome - Opera in Concert Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra Hong Kong Cultural Centre Concert Hall Continues tonight and Monday Despite reports about poor ticket sales, the concert hall was well filled for the Hong Kong Philharmonic's concert performance of Richard Strauss' opera, Salome. The audience showed their support at the end with overwhelming - and deserved - applause for conductor Edo de Waart, the strong cast and the orchestra itself. Salome is based on Oscar Wilde's play of the same name, which is based on the biblical account of John the Baptist's death. In Strauss' opera, Salome (sung by Susan Bullock) is the stepdaughter of King Herod, who has married the wife of his own dead brother. Salome becomes so obsessed with Jokanaan (John's name in the opera) that she performs the dance of the seven veils for the lustful Herod - then, to the king's horror, demands the head of Jokanaan so as to kiss his dead mouth. The Philharmonic seldom lacked focus or clarity in their playing of this colourful, gripping score. De Waart breathlessly realised buildups to climax after climax. While it would be possible to nitpick, one must also realise the progress made since de Waart became artistic director some months ago. The orchestra previously performed few operas in concert at all. Although the 100-plus orchestral performers were from Hong Kong, the majority of the soloists were international names. Englishwoman Bullock sang with a slightly harsh strain but showed true stamina in this heavy role. Dutchman John Brocheler might have made Jokanaan seem older than he is supposed to be, but conveyed a gruff, inflexible moral strictness as foil to the decadent trinity of Herod, his wife Herodias and Salome. American Chris Merritt's Herod is more brute than sensualist, but his singing is often impressive, creating with Australian Bernadette Cullen as Herodias some exciting moments of duet.