“Salome”, the masterpiece of Richard Strauss, who conducted the very first opera in the history of the Salzburg Festival, finally returns to Salzburg after 25 years. To witness Franz Welser-Möst, a Strauss conductor in a league of his own, at the helm of the Wiener Philharmoniker “makes you think you are hearing the piece in its most perfect incarnation yet.” (Financial Times). The Italian director Romeo Castellucci has the extraordinary gift of creating images pulsating with knowledge of the subconscious, he is responsible for directing and designing stage sets, costumes and lighting. “Asmik Grigorian sweeps all in her wake in the title role of Strauss’s opera. […] Hers is a Salome to end all Salomes. […] In total, it is stunning…” (Financal Times)
Direction, sets, costumes and lighting
In late 19th-century French literature the figure of Salome became a popular subject as a femme fatale and the epitome of perverted lust. The climax was reached with Oscar Wilde’s tragedy Salomé, written in French and breathing the spirit of the fin de siècle. Expanding the original constellation of gazes, Wilde weaves a whole web of obsessive and unreturned gazes between the figures, as the expression or origin of desire. Can one evade the gaze, as Jochanaan believes when he attempts to forbid Salome to look at him ‘with her golden eyes, under her gilded eyelids’? Can the gaze be denied and the word alone be trusted? Wilde’s tragedy unfolds between the oppositions of eye and ear, physicality and spirituality, sound and word, looking and insight.
When Richard Strauss began to set an abridged German translation of this scandal-ridden play to music in 1903 he faced the challenge of conveying these antitheses in the medium of music – or indeed of relativizing them. As a composer, with Salome Strauss now found a language of his own in the sphere of opera as he had previously done in his symphonic poems, the hitherto unsuspected wealth of orchestral colours being just one of its unmistakable characteristics.
The staging conceived for Salzburg makes the figure of Salome the true pivot, transforming her into the fire that animates all that is present, and which in the dance of the seven veils blazes up and is consumed. The dance forms a climax, a manifestation of intensity and a final flaring up that touches the spectator.
In a scenic image in which sublime elements exist alongside the mundane, Romeo Castellucci’s staging foregrounds less the yearning for the trophy of Jochanaan’s head than the act of cutting, cutting away; not the object of desire, which is lost forever, but the touching loneliness of a female figure for which we feel sympathy. And it is here that the act of looking, by virtue of its ultimate interdiction, plunges into the abyss of desire.
1 hour 52 minutes
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