Why Salome? A Note from Christopher McBeth
Some of you may be aware that there are exciting changes going on at the Capitol Theatre as part of a multi-stage renovation. When it became clear two years ago that, as a part of this renovation, the Capitol Theatre would need to be closed this fall we (along with the other resident companies) began considering our options. Abravanel Hall was one of our obvious potential solutions which got me to thinking about operas our company hadn’t presented in a number of years and, in particular, those operas that specifically featured the orchestra. The operas of Richard Strauss jumped to mind immediately. These are operas that require orchestral playing at the highest level and presented a great opportunity – while in a concert hall – to allow the musicians to be an integral part of the performance. Strauss completed fifteen operas so which one to present? The field was narrowed quickly by considering our performance venue and determining which of Strauss’ works would not only be uncompromised by the absence of proscenium, wing space and fly loft but also could magnify the dramatic scope of the opera. That choice quickly became Strauss’ first success and masterpiece, Salome.
Based on the play of the same name by Oscar Wilde and loosely derived from figures/events described in the New Testament, Salome is a compact and intense narrative. There is tragedy on several different levels…approximating Greek mythology. As such, the music is equally as intense, descriptive, often dissonant and highly energetic. There are no unstained personalities in this story and the music aptly depicts this. The opera is created in the artistic style of Expressionism…that modernist style originating in Germany that permeated all disciplines in the early part of the 20th Century which created a sense of distorted, hyper-reality in order to illicit an extreme mood and evoke a visceral response. (The Edvard Munch, The Scream is a specific example in the visual arts.) In presenting this piece in a concert hall without the separation created by orchestra pit and proscenium arch the drama is literally thrust in front of us as an audience and intensifies the action as well as the music. I expect to find this a highly engaging experience.