Opera Hong Kong Cultural Centre Grand Theatre Reviewed: October 10 Marking the 150th anniversary of the birth of Richard Strauss, Opera Hong Kong presented what is arguably his most powerful stage work, Salome , in a co-production with the Slovene National Theatre Opera and Ballet of Ljubljana. Based on Oscar Wilde's dramatisation of the biblical story, the work mixes dysfunctional family relationships with religion, abusive lust and decapitation. Herodes, the wheedling, lecherous stepfather of Salome with Herodias for a vixen of a wife, has imprisoned John the Baptist (named Jochanaan in this work). Salome develops a disturbing sexual fascination for the prisoner, which disgusts him. When Herodes makes a move on Salome, she agrees to dance for him if he will grant her a wish. Herodes accepts the deal and, after the Dance of the Seven Veils (choreographed here as erotica and fleeting, provocative nudity) Salome asks for Jochanaan's head. When it's delivered on a platter, she kisses the lips in revenge for his rebuffs, shocking Herodes back to rationality: he orders soldiers to crush Salome under their shields. In this production, the execution instrument is a short-bladed knife wielded by a security guard. The modest set, with subtle projections, proved an excellent backdrop for the sizzling drama. The vocal line-up was impressive. The whole cast sang Strauss' formidable score with powerful resonance, not least the team of local singers, who injected a vibrant immediacy into their smaller roles as quarrelsome religious courtiers. Peter Bronder (Herodes) played well the excellent contrast of strong voice and feeble character; Daniel Sumegi (Jochanaan) was powerful as the wild prophet of the desert - no sanctimonious smooth edges here; Jacqueline Dark (Herodias) impressed with subtle reflections of both her weakness and power; and Jason Wickson fired up the opening with command as Narraboth, captain of the guard. Dressed in shocking pink and with a generous vibrato, Kirsten Chambers (Salome) initially connected more as a royal tart than a disturbed adolescent. Changing into a skimpy black dress for the later scenes, she descended into depravity more convincingly. John Neschling directed the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra with accuracy and restraint.