Salome (opera)

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Work data
Title: Salome
Poster, design: Max Tilke (1910)

Poster, design: Max Tilke (1910)

Shape: thoroughly composed
Original language: German
Music: Richard Strauss
Libretto : Oscar Wilde , translated by Hedwig Lachmann , arranged by Strauss
Literary source: Salomé by Oscar Wilde
Premiere: December 9, 1905
Place of premiere: Royal Opera House Dresden
Playing time: approx. 1 ¾ hours
Place and time of the action: Palace at the time of the reign of Herod II Antipas

Salome (op. 54) is an opera in one act by Richard Strauss . It is based on the drama of the same name by Oscar Wilde from 1891 and is one of the first literary operas.


Alice Guszalewicz as Salome, with the head of Jochanaan in a silver bowl, around 1910

Place and time: A large terrace in the palace of Herod during the reign of Herod II Antipas

First Scene

The young captain Narraboth watches Salome, who is attending a feast inside the palace. A young page worriedly warned him not to look at the princess like that, otherwise terrible things could happen. John the Baptist (in the opera "Jochanaan"), who is held captive in a cistern by Herod because he denounced the marriage of Herod and Herodias, repeatedly calls out prophecies from below.

Second scene

Salome falls outside. She can no longer bear the lustful looks of her stepfather and the behavior of his guests. When Jochanaan's curses rise again to the surface, Salome becomes curious and, by means of her seduction skills, can get Narraboth to open the cistern and let the prophet come out, contrary to Herod's prohibition.

Third scene

Salome is fascinated by the young prophet who railed against Herod and his wife. When she reveals herself to him, however, he sharply rejects her advances and admonishes her to look for "the Son of Man" so that he may forgive her her sins, and he can already hear the "wings of the angel of death" rustling in the palace. But the young princess only has eyes for Jochanaan; Narraboth stabs himself when he overhears Salome's growing crush. When she continues to be unapologetic, Jochanaan curses her and returns to the cistern.

Fourth scene

Herod enters the scene with his party because Salome did not come back. He spontaneously decides to continue the party on the terrace. He discovers Narraboth's body when he slips on his blood and has him removed. Shortly afterwards he hears a strange rustling in the air, as if from "mighty wings". He offers Salome wine, fruit and her mother's place, but she refuses. Jochanaan calls out wild curses from his prison, which Herodias refers to himself. She demands that the prophet be handed over to the Jews who have been crying out for him for months. After a violent religious argument between the five Jews and further calls from the cistern, Herod asks Salome to dance for him. She also refuses this request at first, but agrees when the tetrarch promises her as a reward to grant her every wish. After taking an oath from him, she dances the " Dance of the Seven Veils ".

After performing the dance, to Herod's delight, the princess expresses her wish: the head of Jochanaan on a silver bowl. Herod tries to change her mind because he is afraid that if he has a holy man executed, disaster will hit him. Bound by his oath, he finally has to give in and consent. Salome takes the head and soars into an ecstatic love frenzy when she sings about it. Repelled by Salome's behavior, Herod is frightened when suddenly the moon darkens and wants to return to the palace. In the dark one can hear Salome kissing the severed head. The moon breaks out again and illuminates the princess. Herod then orders: “You kill this woman!” Soldiers rush to the girl and bury her under their shields. The curtain falls.


Orchestral line-up

Behind the scene: 1  organ , 1  harmonium


Leitmotiv of Salome
Leitmotiv of Jochanaan

The music of Salome is well composed and based on leitmotifs , thus standing in the tradition of Wagner , who replaced libretti in verse form and classical periodicals , some also say: overcame with prose texts and melodic setting. "The nucleus of an aria by Mozart is a period of eight bars, which usually corresponds to four Italian verses of seven or eight syllables, with Wagner a unit of meaning in the text can also fill five, seven or nine bars."

At the same time Richard Strauss succeeded with Salome in a revolutionary way of overcoming Wagner's longing for beautiful sound on the one hand and his romantic worldview on the other. The characters appearing are, according to Strauss himself, “all perverse people and, to my liking, the most perverted in society is - the Jochanaan.” Or - like the Narraboth as an exception - they are hopelessly naive . In the course of the 95-minute one-act play, three die - Narraboth by suicide on the open stage, Jochanaan and Salome by illegitimate death sentences . The music to go with it is accordingly wild: “The extent of dissonances , orchestral volumes, sheer musical cacophony as in Salome had never existed before.” “[F] he Schönberg and his circle will make Strauss' opera an awakening experience. Salome is the prototype of modern opera, the gateway to new music. "

The opening scene already turns previous conventions on their head. “A short whirring run - and we are already surrounded by the sultry, sensual air at the court of Herod the Quadruple.” “In the course of the clarinet, two keys that are a tritone apart connect . The conventional tonality has been abolished, bitonality and free oscillation between keys, which are already chromatically alienated, appear on the scene. Cluster-like chords cluster in the bass, it twitches and screams in the strangest contortions. ”Strauss may not have been the best melodist, but he was able to compose concise themes and develop them“ through clever sequencing into apparently broad melodic discharges ”.

The famous dissonance (sfz) towards the end of the opera (piano reduction)

In the final scene, Salome takes possession of Jochanaan's head. “In wild lust she kisses and sucks the blood from the dead lips. She exudes her disgusting sensuality in a staggering, intoxicated song, forgetting everything around her. ”The music piles up to a dramatic climax that ends with an unorthodox cadence .

The music of Salome (and other early Strauss works) , which is considered to be "annoying" and "emotionally stimulating", met with rejection from conservative audiences (a curious example from the Nazi era: Oscar Fritz Schuh settled in 1940 on the occasion of his engagement with the Wiener State Opera contractually to guarantee that he would not have to stage Wagner or Strauss).

Work history


The Viennese poet Anton Lindner approached Richard Strauss in 1901 with the suggestion that a libretto should be created from the drama Salomé by Oscar Wilde (written in 1891, one of his few works in French; first performed in Paris in 1896 with Sarah Bernhardt ) . In Lindner's version, Strauss discovered “a few cleverly versed opening scenes”, but then decided to create the libretto himself. In doing so, he resorted to the Salomé translation by Hedwig Lachmann (edited by Lindner) , which in turn is based on the English translation. He left the wording largely unchanged, but made numerous musical and dramaturgically related cuts and changes. Salome is therefore one of the first literary operas to take over formulations directly from works of spoken theater on a larger scale .

After Strauss had completed the score on April 20, 1905, the opera Salome was premiered on December 9 at the Royal Opera House in Dresden , with Marie Wittich in the title role, Irene von Chavanne as Herodias, Karel Burian as Herodes and Karl Perron as Jochanaan and Ernst Watcher as "A Cappadocier". The musical direction was Ernst von Schuch , the direction was Willi Wirk , the set was designed by Emil Rieck (1852–1939), the costumes by Leonhard Fanto (1874–1940). Gustav Mahler wanted to bring the opera out at the same time at the Vienna State Opera , but this was thwarted by the censors because of the "morality offensive" act:

"... apart from more textual concerns, I cannot go beyond the repulsive nature of the whole subject and can only repeat: The depiction of processes that belong to the field of sexual pathology is not suitable for our court stage."

- Dr. Emil Jettel von Ettenach : Letter from the court censor to State Opera director Gustav Mahler, October 31, 1905

Shortly after the score was completed, between July and September 1905, the composer himself, with the help of his friend Romain Rolland, created a French version of the opera in which he endeavored to rewrite the vocal parts so that they matched Oscar Wilde's original text . This version was performed in Paris and Brussels in March 1907, before the French premiere of the original German version, which Strauss himself conducted at the Théâtre du Châtelet . In 1909, Jean de Marliave produced a “new edition” which (freely) translated Hedwig Lachmann's translation into French in such a way that it matched the original musical text, and which became common in the following decades. In 1989/90, the Strauss / Rolland version, which had hardly been played before, was performed again and produced for the first time on CD (detailed in the booklet of this only recording to date).

Cast of the premiere

Cast sheet for the Dresden premiere
Marie Wittich, the premiere of Salome, 1895
December 9, 1905, Royal Opera House Dresden
role Pitch Conductor : Ernst von Schuch
Herod tenor Karel Burian
Herodias Mezzo-soprano Irene von Chavanne
Salome soprano Marie Wittich
Iokanaan baritone Karl Perron
Narraboth tenor Rudolf Hunter
A page of Herodias Old Riza Eibenschütz
First Jew tenor Hans Rudiger
Second Jew tenor Hans Saville
Third Jew tenor Georg Grosch
Fourth Jew tenor Anton Erl
Fifth Jew bass Léon Rains
First Nazarene bass Friedrich Plaschke
Second Nazarene tenor Theodor Kruis
First soldier bass Franz Nebuschka
Second soldier bass Hans Erwin (Hans Erwin Hey)
A Cappadocier bass Ernst Wachter
A slave soprano Maria Keldorfer


The Austro-Hungarian premiere took place under the musical direction of the composer in 1906 at the Graz Opera House , in the presence of the composers Alban Berg , Gustav Mahler, Giacomo Puccini , Arnold Schönberg , Alexander von Zemlinsky - and by (anecdotally rumored, but unproven) Adolf Hitler . The Vienna premiere followed on May 15, 1907 in the Deutsches Volkstheater (today: Volkstheater) in a guest performance from Breslau .


Web links

Commons : Salome  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Salome: Literature becomes opera. Lecture at the State Opera Unter den Linden, Berlin, January 3rd, 2000 (Author: Albert Gier , Romance writer and librettologist ).
  2. Richard Strauss to Franz Schreker , quoted in according to the specified source Unter den Linden, Berlin 2000, p. 10.
  3. Carolyn Abbate, Roger Parker: The History of the Opera. The last 400 years. CH Beck, Munich 2013, p. 545.
  4. ^ A b c Edwin pieceworker: Strauss: "Salome" - the gateway to new music. In: Capriccio Kulturforum. January 23, 2012.
  5. Otto Schumann: Handbuch der Opern , Gütersloh undated, p. 537.
  6. Otto Schumann: Handbuch der Opern , Gütersloh undated, p. 539.
  7. ^ Quoted from: Franz Hadamowsky, Alexander Witeschnik (ed.): Anniversary exhibition 100 years of Vienna Opera on the Ring. Vienna 1969, p. 93.