Unveiling Salome

A documentary about Richard Strauss's opera

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Modestas Pitrenas — Conductor

Vincent Boussard — Stage director

Christian Lacroix — Costume designer

Alex Penda (a.k.a. Alexandrina Pendatchanska) — Salome

Gabriele Schnaut — Herodias

Martin Gantner — Jochanaan

Program notes

Director Nayo Titzin invites us to follow the performance process of Richard Strauss' world-famous opera, Salome, for an overwhelming aesthetic experience.

This one-act drama inspired from Oscar Wilde's work was first performed in 1905 at the Hofoper of Dresden. It was a resounding success for the German composer who set to music in a refined and powerful orchestration the myth of the princess of Judea that aroused from the artists of that time an extreme fascination. By embodying a woman who is "natural: that is to say, abominable", as Baudelaire once said, she became the symbol of decadence.

Salome, daughter of tetrarch Galilée Herod's second wife, is filled with desire for prophet Jochanaan, inspite of her stepfather's prohibition. The young man curses her and rejects her. Herod, fascinated by the princess' dangerous beauty, promises her to fulfill any of her requests in exchange of a dance. After complying with sensuality, she genuinely asks for Jochanaan's head on a silver platter. No wealth offered by the appalled tetrarch will change her mind. Once she obtains the prophet's bloody head, the cruel woman kisses him with a passion close to hysteria. Horrified, Herod orders to kill her.

Disturbing, abominable and erotic, this story is here sublimated by the Bulgarian soprano's performance, Alex Penda. Dressed by Christian Lacroix and with Vincent Boussard's staging, she embodies with great sensitivity Strauss' Salome. This documentary, filmed on stage and during the rehearsals at the Theater St. Gallen, offers a new vision of this masterwork by exploring the performance process until we see emerge, on stage, the darkest side of the human soul. It is in the official selection of the International Festival of Films on Art (FIFA) 2014 of Montreal, Canada.

A closer look: featured composers

Further listening: featured works

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