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Salome
April 7, 8, 14, and 16, 2023
Friday shows at 7:30 PM Sunday 2 PM


Salome, Op. 54, is an opera in one act by composer Richard Strauss. The libretto is Hedwig Lachmann's German translation of the 1891 French play Salomé by Oscar Wilde, edited by the composer.

The opera is famous (at the time of its premiere, infamous) for its "Dance of the Seven Veils.”

The production in Billings is accompanied by piano and sung in German with English text projected above the stage.

The opera’s length is 90 minutes.

The Story:
The opera begins in the Palace of Herod. Narraboth, captain of the guard, gazes at Princess Salome, with whom he loves. Jochanaan, an imprisoned prophet, is held within the cistern. Salome hears Jochanaan cursing her mother, Queen Herodias. Salome charms Narraboth into bringing the prophet to her. When he is brought forth, Jochanaan yells prophecies concerning the king and queen. Salome is overcome with longing for the prophet, and she makes three requests: to caress his skin, to feel his hair, and to kiss his lips; all three requests are rejected by the prophet. Consumed by jealousy to hear this, Narraboth commits suicide before Jochanaan is returned to the cistern below the palace.

When the king and queen enter, Herod slips on the blood of Narraboth, causing him to hallucinate. When he awakes, he finds himself madly in love with Salome, who immediately rebukes him. When Jochanaan taunts the incestuous marriage of the king and queen, Herodias demands that he be silenced, to which the fearful Herod refuses. The king makes of his daughter three requests: that she eat with him, that she drinks with him, and that she dances for him; the first two are rejected, but the request for a dance is honored when Herod offers to give Salome any price that she asks, even if that were half of his kingdom. Salome performs the Dance of the Seven Veils. When she has finished, she states her price must be the head of Jochanaan, presented on a silver platter. While Herodias is delighted at this, Herod tries to offer several treasures, including the sacred veil of the temple. Salome remains adamant and is soon brought the severed head of the prophet. Entranced, Salome kisses the head of Jochanaan. In disgust, Herod orders his soldiers to kill Salome, and they crush her to death.

Salome’s mention in the Bible
There are two Salome’s mentioned in the Bible. One righteous and one unrighteous. The Opera is based on the second Salome.
The unrighteous Salome is not mentioned by name in the Bible, but we read about what she did in Mark 6. This Salome was part of the Herod dynasty, and her family history was convoluted: Herod Antipas (the “King Herod” of Mark 6:14) had divorced his wife and married Herodias, who was the wife of his half-brother Philip (Mark 6:17). However, Herodias herself was the daughter of another of Herod’s half-brothers, Aristobulus, making her not only the wife but the niece of both Philip and Herod—and a sister-in-law of Herod. Salome was Herodias’s daughter through Philip. Thus, Salome was the daughter (and grandniece) of Philip and the stepdaughter (and grandniece by marriage) of Herod; she was also both daughter and grandniece to her own mother. When Herodias came to live with Herod Antipas, Salome came with her. This royal family is significant in Bible history because it figures in the story of the death of John the Baptist. John the Baptist had publicly criticized King Herod for his divorce and remarriage to his niece/sister-in-law, and Herodias was enraged. Herod Antipas had John thrown into prison to placate his wife/niece/sister-in-law, Herodias.

John the Baptist’s fate was decided when Herodias’s daughter (Salome) danced for Herod at his birthday banquet. Pleased with the girl’s performance, Herod offered her a rash boon. Salome went to Herodias to ask her advice on what the gift should be, and Herodias told her to ask for the head of John the Baptist on a platter. Salome obediently asked Herod for this grisly gift, and, though the Bible says Herod was grieved, he honored his promise. John was beheaded in prison, and his head was given to Herodias’s daughter who took it to her mother (Mark 6:21–28). Though Salome is not mentioned by name in the biblical record, the historian Josephus tells us her name.

Director: Doug Nagel

Cast: 

Doug Nagel:  Jochanaan, John the Baptist
Scott Wichael:  Herod
Emerald Hart