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Salome

Richard Strauss 1864-1949

Drama in one act
Libretto by Richard Strauss based on Oscar Wilde.
First performed December 9 1905, Königlisches Opernhaus, Dresden.

Sung in German with German & English surtitles
Introductory talks, in German, in the Holzfoyer half an hour before performances begin

Salome's request for the head of the Baptist electrifies the action. Strauss' hundred minute long opera is about frenzy and self-denial, power and death. Its elemental power and sensuality shook an entire epoch. The original source, the biblical tale of Salome, took on increasing importance over the millenia: the fascination with John the Baptist's death in Mark's gospel continued into the fin de siècle, when Salome became a popular figure for sculptors, writers and composers. Oscar Wilde, whose play fascinated the composer and inspired him to such radical reform, was not the first to have taken up the Salome subject. But with Wilde - and Strauss – this horrifying tale shows the collision between sensuousness and religious asceticism with extraordinary escalation and explosive force. Salome acts independently in Wilde's play: She demands the prophet's head from her step-father Herodes, because her love remains unfilfilled. Strauss concentrated on the conflict between Salome and Jochanaan. His opera is pioneering and regarded by many as the most important event in European music since Wagner's Tristan und Isolde. Influenced by the fascinating text upon which it was based, Strauss enriched his harmony, rhythm and instrumentalisation with an intensity never heard before. A scandal, and ensuing world success, were certain.