Musical drama in one act by Richard Strauss
Perfomred in German with surtitles
Power – loneliness – coldness in a world without love and without faith
A night-time banquet at the house of Herod the Tetrarch. In the moonlight, a young captain of the Royal Guard, Narraboth, is dreaming of Princess Salome when the prophet Jokanaan (John the Baptist) declaims his earthly mission. A Cappadocian is present, soldiers mill to and fro, an argument between rival Jewish groups fills the air. A pageboy senses impending doom. Salome flees from her stepfather Herod into the moonlight, and is drawn to the aura of Jokanaan. There is a mutual attraction and fascination. Narraboth determines to kill himself, while Jokanaan finally rejects Salome. Herod and his wife Herodias (Salome’s mother) enter the scene. They argue over Salome and Jokanaan. Herod is tortured by some nameless fear. Jews and Nazarenes pester the royal couple with a never-ending dispute regarding Jokanaan’s ancestry, and the question of whether the saviour of the world is approaching. Jokanaan calls out into the night. Herod makes advances to Salome; he urges her to dance, promising anything her heart desires. The princess finally agrees to his request. As her reward, she demands the head of Jokanaan. Herod initially refuses to honour his oath. However Salome, supported by Herodias, succeeds in imposing her will. She falls into lustful ecstasy. Herod’s order to kill her comes too late.
At a banquet, outside our earthly existence, in the madness of a floating world.
The unfolding story takes centre stage, told with an absolute concentration. There is no ornamental façade, no lush or exotic decoration to distract our attention.
Richard Strauss clearly stated his intention: »In contrast to the highly agitated music, the performers’ actions must be reduced to the greatest possible simplicity.«
The basic mood: a state of emergency. Everything is in flux, nothing is tangible. A space which represents the condition of disorientation, a life of illusion, a lack of stability. We search for firm ground and find only water. The characters »walk on water«.
Added to this, a spectral illumination. A natural element, the moon, acts to catalyse the plot. It is a night of decision-making, at a place which allows no escape. Outside this space, where the world should be, there is nothing – the world is isolated.
The basic situation: a banquet, where a family comes together. All those present find themselves in extremis, in a state of emergence. They are exposed and laid bare, like gloves turned inside out. They have no language in common. All live in their own worlds, fighting for their own position in isolation from the others. A state of madness at the »golden section«, enabling a visual partitioning into two opaque worlds.
The action goes in circles, without end.
When love is absent, desire takes its place. Emotions run high, and masks are allowed to drop. The moonlight breeds lunacy. A latent sexual atmosphere burns within the most diverse constellations of characters.
Jokanaan and Salome resemble one another in their diffidence and seclusion – living lives cut off from their surroundings, inexperienced in dealing with their physicality and sexuality.
They become soul mates, united in loneliness.
What began as an opportunity for two people ends in destruction, hate and death.
»In one of the most beautiful love stories, Jokanaan and Salome are a young couple journeying to their deaths.« (Peter Mussbach)
In November 2007 the Saxon State Opera Dresden took their productions of »Der Rosenkavalier«, »Salome« and »Tannhäuser« to Tokyo and Yokohama.