There was a time when the vocal demands of the title role of Richard Strauss’ “Salome” were considered so challenging that even though the character is supposed to be a teenaged girl, it became virtually the exclusive property of middle-aged Wagnerian divas who were often so large that seven veils would barely surround one of their thighs. Then came slender sopranos such as Maria Ewing and Catherine Malfatino, where vocal prowess was sacrificed for feminine shapeliness, where Strauss’ glorious score was squandered for a peep show. Balance has been restored thanks to celebrated soprano Deborah Voigt, making her highly anticipated first appearance ever in a staged production of “Salome” at Lyric Opera following a highly publicized firing at Covent Garden because she was deemed too large for a sexy costume and following gastric bypass surgery and the subsequent loss of much of her former girth with no apparent loss to her formidable vocal power and artistry. “Salome” is a role that Voigt was born for and how glorious it is to hear every note of this score soar across the opera house, even when the Lyric Opera Orchestra is pulling out all the stops with remarkable playing under Sir Andrew Davis. Everything about this production soars, from its desert-like translucent set with its ever-changing hues (think Monet’s haystacks or Cathedral paintings) to first-class singing and acting in even minor roles that builds to a relentless “love scene” climax with a severed head that is as psychologically disturbing as it is musically thrilling. (Dennis Polkow)
2pm, Oct 29; 7:30pm, Nov 3, 6, 11, 14, 18, 21. Civic Opera House, Wacker Drive at Madison, (312)332-2244. $31-$179. Through Nov 21.