Maybe, as Alex Ross suggests within the opening pages of his bestselling e-book, The Relaxation is Noise, twentieth century music was born with the primary scandalous performances of Richard Strauss’ 1905 opera, Salome.
Set in a single act, the opera was impressed by Oscar Wilde’s French play based mostly on characters from the Gospel of Saint Matthew. The imprisoned Jochanaan (John the Baptist) turns into an object of want for princess Salome, the teenage stepdaughter of King Herod of Judaea. Jochanaan rejects her wicked advances. Later, over the objections of Herodias, the lustful, incestuous Herod begs Salome to bop for him. As a reward, he guarantees to grant her no matter her coronary heart needs. She complies with the Dance of the Seven Veils, an unique striptease which renders her bare at his toes. Following the dance, Salome calls for Jochanaan’s head on a silver platter. Herod makes an attempt to dissuade her with guarantees of riches, however it’s to no avail. “Disguise the moon, conceal the celebrities! One thing horrible goes to occur!” exclaims the horrified Herod earlier than the deranged Salome kisses the severed head. A second later, he orders his troopers to “Kill that lady!”
On the time of its premiere, Salome was extensively banned by censors. Consent for a efficiency on the Vienna State Opera, to be carried out by Gustav Mahler, was not granted. Following a campaign led by the daughter of J.P. Morgan, a 1907 staging on the New York’s Metropolitan Opera was cancelled after one efficiency. A doctor wrote to the Occasions to denounce Salome as a “detailed and specific exposition of probably the most horrible, disgusting, revolting, and unmentionable options of degeneracy…that I’ve ever heard of, learn of, or imagined.” Germany’s Kaiser Wilhelm II, in any other case a fan of Strauss’ music, warned that it will do the composer “a whole lot of harm.” But, Strauss later quipped, “Due to that harm I used to be capable of construct my villa in Garmisch!” Following the profitable premiere in Dresden, Salome obtained a subsequent staging in Graz, with Mahler, Giacomo Puccini, and Arnold Schoenberg in attendance.
With Strauss’ Salome, tonality begins to fray. Wagnerian chromaticism is pushed to its breaking level. Instead, fragmented, post-tonal strands emerge which anticipate the music of Schoenberg. At first, the ultimate moments of Salome appear to be constructing in direction of a transfiguring climactic decision akin to Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde. But, the demented necrophilia of Salome is the antithesis of putting up with love, and the second turns right into a nightmare. A cadence in C-sharp main is marred by a sudden flash of polytonality. A low A dominant seventh is smashed towards a better F-sharp main chord. It’s a sonority which has been known as, “probably the most sickening chord in all opera,” an “epoch-making dissonance with which Strauss takes Salome…to the depth of degradation,” and “the quintessence of Decadence: right here is ecstasy falling in upon itself, crumbling into the abyss.” (Craig Ayrey) With the anticipated transfiguration abruptly interrupted, the ultimate bars of Salome recommend a visceral harmonic decapitation.
Featured Picture: “Salome with the Head of John the Baptist” (c. 1607/1610), Caravaggio
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