Posts Tagged ‘Opera’

I have seen the opera Salome once and never quite understood the back story. I’ve been told that Maria Ewing’s infamous portrayal of Salome was the performance that I needed to see. And Of course, most of the reviews of her performance focus on her willingness to take the “Dance of the Seven Veils” to its logical extreme without even a flesh colored body stocking to make it more “acceptable” to staid opera fans. And one day Voila! there she was on my TV an important interpolated activity of an otherwise dull Saturday afternoon. She is lovely and I’m still trying to figure out if she is perhaps a person of color. Anyway here’s what I still don’t understand about this story. John The Baptist has been out in the wilderness eating locusts and wearing camel’s hair. I mean real camel’s hair not processed like a Brook’s Brothers coat. This was funky stuff right off the camel. Anyway he ends up in the court of Herod the Tetrarch and immediately begins to heckle Herod for marrying his own brother Phillip’s wife Herodias. John keeps telling Herod “It’s not right for you to have her.” As if that were not enough Herod is lusting after Herodias’ chaste daughter Salome. After a while Herod gets tired of John interfering in his life and imprisons him in a dry cistern. Salome begs one of the guards who has a thing for her to let her see John The Baptist who she immediately falls in love with believing him to be chaste as well. Now Salome is a young fox, Herod wants her, the handsome young soldier guarding John wants her, John The Baptist is pretty nearly a homeless man at the time, but he doesn’t want anything to do with her. still Salome pleads with him for just one kiss. When John refuses her telling her to go look for the Messiah she gets mad, but sees an opportunity in yielding to a much desired wish of Herod’s and does the Dance of the Seven Veils for his birthday and pleases Herod so much that he promises her anything she wishes. Prompted by her mother Herodias who is being made to feel guilty by John, she asks for John’s head on a platter. At first Herod refuses not wanting the blood of a holy man on his hands. But Salome is adamant. Herod offers her all kinds of treasures, but she refuses. Eventually Herod has to give in and Salome gets the head of John on a silver shield. Now this is where Salome lost me – she grabbed the head and starts kissing the cold dead lips with insane ardor. Herod revolted by the sight has her killed on the spot! Now, I know that in an opera everything and anything is likely to happen on the stage and the joy of it is that at the end you go Phew! and feel enormously glad that it was just a performance. But here’s this ingenue, being chased by the man who is married to her mother having stolen her mother from his brother, who has a handsome young soldier so crazy for her that he commits suicide when he finds out that she prefers John The Baptist; and she dances so fiery that when she gets the seventh veil off and reveals her naked body her stepfather who is also her uncle agrees to cut off the head of a holy man and then eventually kills her! Good grief that’s a complicated story! Hard to believe it all takes place in one Act! I mean darn, why didn’t John just kiss her?


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