SALOME LECTURE NUMBER TWO
The year after its premier in Dresden, Salome was produced in Berlin, where Strauss was musical director of the Berlin Opera. Strauss conducted the Berlin performance--the Dresden premier had been conducted by Ernst von Schuch. Salome soon spread around Europe (except, of course, not in Vienna where, we recall from last week's lecture, it was banned as immoral). It appeared at Convent garden in 1910, conducted by Sir Thomas Beecham but was not produced in Vienna until 1947, with Welitsch, conducted by Clemens Kraus. The long delay between Salome's premier and its first production in Vienna was due to the opposition of the Roman Catholic Church, which viewed the opera as "immoral" (even though the story came directly from the Gospels.) Those of you who are students of history will know that up until the end of World War I Vienna was a very Roman Catholic city. After all the emperor of the Austro-Hungarian Empire was also the emperor of the (by now nominal) Holy Roman Empire, and moralistic blue laws were strictly enforced. The Reformation, which originated in German under the aegis of Martin Luther, never spread to Vienna. Even today the Roman Catholic Church is very strong in Vienna, but it no longer is able to exercise censorship over the operaI just wanted to elaborte on some of the remarks I made in the first lecture about the concept of "music drama" as Strauss styled Salome. One can deduce, from reading Richard Wagner's essays, that he was propelled to the idea of Geasmtkunstwerk (total work of art) as a musical form after being exposed to Beethoven's ninth symphony which, as you all know, uses singers (soloists and chorus) as an extension of the orchestra. In fact, Wagner was so enamored of this symphony that he conducted it at the opening of the Bayreuth Festspielhaus in 1877. One of the main innovations of music drama is that the regular periodicity of the music is replaced by irregular patterns, sometimes called "musical prose." In particular, cadences were largely abolished. (I conjectured that the abolition of cadential patterns led, by a natural process of evolution, to the concept of atonality, that is abolition of a tonic note. Usually the names of Schoenberg and his disciples Webern and Berg are associated with this movement in music, but it had a lot of other adherents as well. Today it has all but died out). 12-tone operas: Moses und Aron by Schoenberg and Lulu and Wozzek by Berg. Semi 12-tone: Death in Venice by Britten. For example, this opera opens with a 12-tone row sung by the protagonist Gustav von Aschenbach. This is immediately followed by its inversion (i.e. it is sung backwards). In a lecture I gave on this topic I claimed it was intended to point out that Aschenbach didn't know if he was coming or going! This is typical of atonality, by the way. The composer starts with the 12 notes in arbitrary order as far as I can tell and then rearranges them according to mathematical formulas; inversions, reflections, translations and various combinations of these. A second aspect of music drama is that the orchestra plays an essential role in shaping the form rather than being merely accompanying the singers. It maintains a type of symphonic development through the use of the leitmotif ("leading motive). Strauss introduced many leitmotifs into Salome. We listened to a number of them last week, and I know you have been studying them further under the guidance of Dr. Sochinski. I just wanted to go over some of the material I presented last week in a little more detail. Remember first the keys associated with the different characters. A major key, usually D Major but not necessarily, is associated with Jokanaan, while Db Major is associated with the moon. These are the "good guys." c# minor and c minor are associated with the "bad guys," Salome and Herod respectively. I pointed out last time that since C# and Db are enharmonically equivalent, Salome is related to the moon, and I conjecture that the relationship has to do with Salome's and the moon's virginity. Remember that the various goddesses of the moon, Selene, Artemis, Diana, are all renowned for their chastitiy. (In the opera Norma, the title character sings a hymn in praise of the moon, Casta Diva, i.e. "Chaste Goddess.")
Recall that Salome opens in the key of c# minor (Salome) and ends in c-minor (Herod). Salome herself is obsessed with the moon's virginity. Here are her words:
"Wie gut ist's in den Mond zu sehn. Er is wie eine silberne Blume, kühl und keusch. Ja, wie die Schönheit einer Jungfrau, die rein gelieben ist."
The Frenceh text is even more illuminating.
"…Elle est froide et chaste, la lune…Je suis sûre qu'elle est vierge. Elle a la beauté d'une vierge. Elle ne s'est pas jamais souillée. Elle ne s'est pas jamais donnée aux hommes, comme les autres Déesses."
(Interestingly enough, while to the French the moon is feminine, la lune, to the Germans the moon is masculine, der Mond.")I want to take a brief detour to discuss some Greek mythology involving the moon goddess since it is relevant to two other operas of Richard Strauss. In the myths, Agamemnon, King of Mycenae, sacrifices his daughter to Artemis on the Island of Aulis. This is demanded of him by the goddess Artemis because he killed one of her sacred deer, and without the sacrifice the goddess will not produce the winds to allow the Greek fleet, which Agamemnon commands, to sail to Troy. When Agamemnon returns from the war, his wife Klytemnestra and her lover Aegisth kill him, allegedly because of the sacrifice but actually because they want to be rid of him. This sets in motion the chain of events described Aeschylus' Oresteia (Sophocles also wrote about it). The Strauss opera Elektra (1909) is based on this story.. Another Strauss opera, Die Aegptische Helen (1928).. tells how after the war, when Helen of Troy and her husband Menelaus were reunited, they traveled to Egypt. Gluck incidentally wrote a couple of operas about Iphigenia, but the story is rewritten to have a happy ending. The two Strauss operas I mentioned were to librettos by Strauss' long-time collaborator Hugo von Hofmansnstahl.Dr. Sochinski has pointed out to me that I made a slightly misoleading statement during last week's class suggesting that the opera Salome was a more-or-less literal translation of the play. To claroify this point, it is true that the text of the opera is 90% literally translated from Wilde's play, but there is still a lot of text in the play which does not appear in the opera. I have already pointed out the subject of the argument, in the first scene, between Saducees and Phariseess, that is whether or not angels exist. Another omission is the information provided by the Second Soldat that Herod's (half) brother, Herod Philip, was confined for twelve years in the same cistern in which Jokanaan is now incarcerated. He was then strangled. I even more strongly now urge you to read the play for a full understanding of the opera.Now we'll talk about leitmotifs in Salome. Although the name of Wagner is ususally associated with leitmotifs, he didn’t'invent them certainly didn't invent the idea of the leitmotif. In fact, I'm not sure who did, but one certainly finds obvious examples in Bizet as I mentioned last week. Offenbach in The Tales of Hoffman introduced a motif of the evil genius, Hoffmann's nemesis who appears in four different manifestations in the opera but always enters to the same music. Even Arthur Sullivan used a leitmotif for the Lord Chancellor in the G&S operetta Iolanthe. (It is similar to Offenbachs' evil genius motif, and may well have been suggested by it). Perhaps Dr. Sochinski can tell us where the leitmotif in opera originated. Here are some of the motifs I didn't get around to last week, and just for emphasis I'll replay some of the more important ones. Let me start with the motif of Jesus Christ. Jokaanan is urging the populace to seek Him: "Suche des Menschen Sohn." "Son of man" was a term which Jesus used in referring to Himslf. (Matthew 27:24, e.g.) 89/1-6 But see also 30/9-31/2
Salome's perverted desire. "Ich will deinen mund küssen, Jokanaan." It first appears at
Salome's motif which first appears in to the words, describing Jokanaan (because of the horrible things he is saying about her mother) "Er ist schreklish. Er ist wirklich screchlich."
76/1-4. Look for it again at 140/14-141/3; 254/2-4; 315/1-4; 316/1-3. And elsewhere. And what is Jokaanan saying about Herodias that makes him so "schreklich?" "Wo ist sie, die den Hauptleuten Assyriens sich gab? Wo is sie, die sich den jungen Männern der Egypter gegeben hat…etc." Evidently Herodias was pretty promiscuous
Wind motif; Herod says "…ich habe es gehört…das Wehn des Windes."
Oath motif. "Du hast einen eid geschworen, Tetrarch."
256/5-257/1; 260/2-4; It is worth noting that before the dance Salome addresses her stepfather respectfully by his title, Tetrarch. After the dance she calls him familiarly by his name, Herodes. After all, by now he's seen her naked!
Salome's revenge. After the dance: Herodes: Was ist es, das du haben möchtest, Salome? Salome: Den Kopf des Jochanaan.
Repeated with variations in text and music at
271/3-4; 297/11-13; 270/13-271/1.
Silver: (I know you've discussed this in class to some extent). Compare the early references to silver with the later references to the silver salver:
Narrobeth, referring to Salome: "Sie is wie der Schatten einer weissen Rose in einem silbernen Spiegel."
Page: (referring to the moonlight): Wie eine Frau die aussteigt aus dem grab. (Wilde: On dirait une femme qui sort d'un tombeau). I stress the French text to demonstrate that the verbal imagery comes from Wilde).
Du siehst sie immer an.