Tenor Carlos Bárcenas on the Victorian Opera production, under the direction of Cameron Menzies.
At a banquet hosted by King Herod, Narraboth, the Captain of the Guard is entranced by Salome, the teenage daughter of Herod’s wife Herodias. Seeking to escape the leering gaze of her stepfather, Salome becomes intrigued by the cries of the imprisoned prophet Jochanaan and convinces Narraboth to bring him to her.
Although Jochanaan rejects her, Salome obsesses over him. She praises his voice and physical features, above all, his mouth. Herod persuades Salome to dance for him and promises her whatever her heart desires in return. As her prize Salome requests Jochanaan’s head on a silver platter so she can finally kiss his lips.
Strauss’ daring and inventive score conveys feelings of terror, lust, hatred and obsession through melodious and dissonant music with rapid-fire shifts of mood. Opening without an overture, a slithering clarinet scale immediately sets the scene of Middle Eastern orientalism, further developed in the heady ‘Dance of the Seven Veils’. Recurring leitmotifs give expression to characterisation and reinforce the idea of obsession in a changing web of associations. Veering from cacophonous to sweeping melodies, lyricism and exotic harmonies reflect the poetry of the text, while polytonality represents the extreme psychological situations.
Tenor Carlos Bárcenas talks about the Victorian Opera production, under the direction of Cameron Menzies.