02 May 2007


Salome, Musikdrama in one act.

Music composed by Richard Strauss. Libretto by the composer based on Hedwig Lachmann’s German translation of Oscar Wilde’s play

First Performance: 9 December 1905, Hofoper, Dresden

Principal Characters:
Herodes, Tetrach of Judea Tenor
Herodias, wife of the Tetrach Mezzo-Soprano
Salome, daughter of Herodias Soprano
Jochanaan, a prophet Baritone
Narraboth, a young Syrian Tenor
A Page Alto
5 Jews 4 Tenors, 1 Bass
2 Nazarenes Tenor, Bass
2 Soldiers Basses
A Cappadocian Bass
A Slave Silent Role

Setting: Palace of Herod at Tiberias, Galilee, c. 30 C.E.


Narraboth, the Captain of Herod’s guard, is fascinated by the princess Salome’s beauty. When she enters onto the palace terrace the voice of the prophet Jokanaan is heard from the cistern where he is imprisoned. She orders him to be raised up and Narraboth eventually surrenders to her will and disobeys Herod’s decree. Jokanaan emerges into the moonlight and denounces the incestuous union of Herod and Salome’s mother Herodias and demands that Salome repents and follows Christ. Equally apalled and mesmerised she is increasingly overcome by desire, praising his body, hair and mouth. Narraboth is distraught and kills himself, but Salome steps over his body in pursuit of her passion. Jokanaan curses her and returns to his prison. Herod emerges from the palace with Herodias, seeking Salome who ignores his advances. Stepping in Narraboth’s blood — a bad omen — he seeks relief from his nightmare visions. The voice of Jokanaan is heard again and Herodias demands that he be delivered to the Jews, provoking a religious debate about the true nature of the prophet and of Christ himself. Herod’s attention is solely focused on Salome who he begs to dance for him and swears an oath to grant her any wish. She performs the Dance of the Seven Veils and tells the horrified Herod that her payment will be the head of the prophet. She waits nervously at the edge of the cistern until the executioner delivers her prize on a silver platter. She ecstatically kisses Jokanaan’s lips, achieving fulfilment at last. In disgust, Herod orders her death.

[Synopsis Source: Boosey & Hawkes]

Click here for the complete libretto.