Salome, the troubled stepdaughter of Herod, has an unhealthy attraction to the devout John the Baptist. Torn between lust and hatred of her life at the corrupt court, she pushes her demands to the most extreme limits.
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Richard Strauss brought an extravagant intensity to his adaptation of Oscar Wilde's play Salomé. The glitter of Herod's palace, the flicker of torches and the pale light of the moon, are all vividly evoked in a rich score. When Salome had its premiere in Dresden in 1905 it received 38 curtain calls and gave Strauss the reputation of a first-rank opera composer. Gustav Mahler called it 'one of the most important works of our day'.
The production's opening tableau introduces a world of debauchery. An elite indulges in a banquet on the upper floor, while servants, guards and prostitutes wait to be summoned in a grimy kitchen downstairs. Moral and physical decay is reinforced by Es Devlin's Art-Deco-inspired designs. The role of Salome blends innocence, sensuality and violence, and places immense demands on a singer. Strauss famously said the role was 'written for a 16-year-old with the voice of an Isolde'.