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Teatro Regio, Tuesday 26 February 2008 - Sunday 9 March 2008
«Once, on the occasion of Herod’s birthday, Herodias’s daughter danced in public; it pleased Herod so much that he swore he would give her anything she wanted. She, however, incited by her mother, said: “give me here, on a platter, the head of John the Baptist”» (the Gospel according to St Matthew,14, 6-8).
The daughter of Herod, who is never mentioned in either the Gospel according to St Matthew or that of St Mark, is Salome, the protagonist of Oscar Wilde’s drama; it was written in French and performed for the first time in Paris in 1896 ( Lord Chamberlain had prohibited its performance in London because there was a ban on representing Biblical characters on stage), and Richard Strauss saw it in Berlin at Max Rheinhardt’s Kleines Theater. The scandalous Salome, who dances semi-nude for the tetrarch and kisses with rapture the severed head of the Baptist, becomes a “musical drama” in the German translation by Hedwig Lachmann of Wilde’s text. «My God, what nervous music! It’s as though cockroaches are running about in your pants», said Strauss’s father comments, also writing with great irony that «William II once said to his superintendent: “I’m sorry that Strauss has written this Salome; I like him a lot, but with this, he will do himself terrible harm”. This harm has permitted me to build my villa at Garmisch!» The première took place in Dresden on 9 December 1905. Banned in Vienna, the first Austrian performance was in Graz on 16 May 1906; Gustav and Alma Mahler, Berg, Puccini, Schoenberg, Zemlinsky and Adolf Hitler were all present.
In New York, the patron J. Pierpont Morgan prohibited any repeat performances because it was a show that «a real lady could never attend». The first Italian performance took place on 23 December 1906 right here at the Teatro Regio under the direction of the composer himself, but in the afternoon of the same day, at La Scala, Toscanini opened to the public the dress rehearsal of the same opera, thus “robbing” Torino of the primogeniture. Salome marks an important chapter in the history of twentieth century music: a one-act opera, it is an incessant, devastating race towards the protagonist’s death, and there are no separate pieces with the exception of the orgiastic rhythm of the dance of the seven veils. The atmosphere of obsession is delineated by lush orchestration, with the strings of the double-basses that narrate the decapitation of the Baptist in a hair-raising way, and an alarming frenzy underlines the macabre soliloquy of love of the protagonist with the severed head of Jokanaan (the Baptist).
Composer: Richard Strauss
Librettist: Hedwig Lachmann
Year of the first performance: 1905 Semperoper, Dresda