We peer behind the veils in Opera Australia’s gruesome new production.

I’ve only seen the last 20 minutes of the dress rehearsal for Salome, but I feel like I’ve been through the wars, or endured a horror movie marathon. After the curtain calls, three Opera Australia staff shuffle onstage with mops to wipe up splatter of Kill Billproportions. As a vegetarian, I feel slightly queasy looking at the backdrop of splayed carcasses.

Of course, Gale Edwards is known for her decadent productions (last year’s lavish La bohèmeamong them), but this is the most gruesome, gratuitous SalomeI’ve ever seen. Even so, the director is adamant that it’s entirely justified. She describes Richard Strauss’ biblical setting, the palace of King Herod at Galilee, as “a violent world; a world in which somebody’s head can be severed after dinner; in which Narraboth stabs himself in the first five minutes of the piece; a world in which a young girl’s throat can be slit; a dictatorship of great greed, corruption and self-satisfaction at the expense of everything.

“Herod’s having a feast – he’s invited all the religious dignitaries of the world to discuss whether his prisoner John the Baptist is a...