Naraboth, captain of the guard, is in love with Salome, Herodes' stepdaughter. But the young woman is irresistibly attracted by the prophet Jochanaan (John the Baptist) imprisoned in an old cistern nearby. Salome tries to seduce the prophet, but John the Baptist's steadfastness in his faith hurts the young woman's pride. Herodes, under Salome's spell, ask her to dance in his presence. She accepts, but imposes a condition: Jochanaan shall die.
The character of Salome, a Minor figure of the New Testament, has inspired many artists, including the painters Cranach the Elder, Sandro Botticelli, Gustave Moreau, and the writers Gustave Flaubert, Oscar Wilde, Joris-Karl Huysmans, Guillaume Apollinaire... Richard Strauss's vision of the myth gave birth to an opera in one act inspired by a play written by Oscar Wilde. It shocked the audience during its premiere in Dresden in 1905. The "dance of the seven veils" especially, highly sensuous and provocative, offended the audience's sensibility. The opera was even banned from London's stages for several years. Now considered a masterpiece of the genre, Salome has become a classic in the operatic repertoire. Musically speaking, Strauss ventures further than ever before on the edge of the tonal system. Unheard chords, discordant tones and tortured melodic lines stress out the violence of the drama. Peter Hall's production, with the striking Maria Ewing in the role of Salome, underlines with brio the combination of the biblical theme, the murderous and the erotic brought together in Richard Strauss's opera.
2004 Lucerne Festival Opening Concert
Philippe Jordan, David McVicar – Nadja Michael (Salome), Thomas Moser (Herod), Joseph Kaiser (Narraboth) – Royal Opera House, Covent Garden