Salome, the daughter of Herodias, is looking for love. She passionately desires the unknown prophet: the body, hair and lips of the man who so brusquely rejects her, in stark contrast to the lascivious King Herod. Bound by his promise to grant Salome’s every wish in exchange for a dance, she is given the head of Jochanaan to kiss. Richard Strauss’s masterpiece broke new ground in its opulent and vivid portrayal of decadence, spiritual corruption and destructive love.
»How beautiful is princess Salome tonight!« – Narraboth is hopelessly in love with Salome, the step-daughter of the tetrarch Herod who is celebrating a raucous party next door. Repelled by the carousing of her lecherous stepfather, she retreats and listens enchanted to the voice of the captured prophet Jochanaan who declares the arrival of the Messiah. She requests to see him. Against the tetrarch’s express wish, Narraboth fulfils her request. Jochanaan curses the dissolute moral conduct of Salome’s mother, Herodias, and challenges her to change her life. She falls in love with him at first sight. In his despair, Narraboth kills himself. Salome wishes to kiss Jochanaan’s lips yet he rejects her advances and curses her.
Jochanaan’s words cause an argument, first between Herod and Herodias who wants to see the prophet dead, and then between the Jews and Nazarenes who cannot agree whether his announcement that the Messiah will appear is true. Herod believes that he is a dangerous, holy man and his words that the Messiah may awaken the dead trigger a panic-stricken fear in him. To distract himself, he asks Salome whom he desires, to dance for him. As a reward, he promises, under oath, to fulfil all her wishes. After the dance, Salome demands the head of Jochanaan. Nothing can change her mind and Herod must give in. Salome receives the head of Jochanaan and kisses his mouth before Herod orders to have her killed.