Musical drama in one act based on Oscar Wilde's poem of the same title (1905)

Composer Richard Strauss · Libretto by the composer
In German with German and English surtitles | New Production

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  • Bayerisches Staatsorchester
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"The secret of love is greater than the secret of death" (Salome)

"How beautiful Princess Salome is tonight!". Oscar Wilde's French drama, arranged as opera text by the composer himself, was a stroke of genius of the fin de siècle, a scandal on one hand and an absolute hit on the other, both an artistic and a financial success which allowed Richard Strauss to buy his villa in Garmisch. Salome demands the head of the prophet, John the Baptist, who has rejected her, from her lustful stepfather – and bound by an oath, he cannot deny her. And so the zealous admonisher dies, and with him the princess is undone – "Kill this woman!". Krzysztof Warlikowski is convinced that Salome recounts many of the contradictions of the period of origin, that in this piece, however, much is also dismissed of that which at the time was still the future: "It's not just what's in the work of art itself that is important, whether it be Oscar Wilde or Richard Strauss, but rather the whole context, which Christianity and the history of the 20th century add to this piece."

Salome can no longer bear her stepfather Herod’s party, yet there is no escaping his house. In her distress, she appears especially beautiful to Narraboth, who can barely keep his eyes from her. The voice of a man imprisoned by Herod catches Salome’s attention. This man, known as Iokanaan, prophesizes the end of the world and the dawn of a new age. Salome convinces Narraboth to defy Herod’s orders and arrange a meeting for her with Iokanaan. He denounces the corruption of Salome’s family; however, his morally-harsh admonishments only serve to increase her interest in him, rising to a sexual desire that Iokanaan strongly rejects. Narraboth, who witnesses this interaction, takes his own life. Iokanaan advises Salome to seek salvation and redemption in Christ. Instead, she continues to press for carnal relations, and he curses her repeatedly. Salome is left distraught.

Herod is looking for Salome and finds Narraboth dead, filling him with the fear of possible doom. In front of his wife Herodias’ eyes, he unashamedly flirts with her daughter. Iokanaan’s vociferous condemnation of Herodias and her vicious moral conduct ignite a discussion amongst those present about the alleged prophet, and the questions of whether and how God will appear. As Iokanaan appeals for Herodias’ misdemeanours to be severely punished, she loses control of herself and demands that Herod gag him. As if unaffected by this, Herod wishes to see Salome dance and promises her the fulfilment of every imaginable desire in return. Against her mother’s will, she agrees.

She dances as if her life depends on it.

Afterwards, she requests Iokanaan’s head as her reward. Herod has qualms about killing a man he views as holy. Salome, however, refuses all her stepfather’s other offers and demands he keep his word. Herod relents. He orders Iokanaan be killed and his head brought to Salome.

Salome attempts to understand love and death, and kisses Iokanaan’s mouth. For a moment, she believes she has triumphed over him, but then realises her own death is approaching.

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