Synopsis in English as pdf-download

Synopsis in English as pdf-download


Opera by Richard Strauss

Directed by Marguerite Borie Duration: 105 Minutes

Premiere: 15th October 2011 No Intermission

The action takes place in Jerusalem, in the

palace of King Herod, Tetrarch of Judea

Scene 1

Herod is hosting a magnificent banquet for

his court. The moon shines brightly on the

palace terrace where Narraboth, captain of

the King’s Guard, is gazing rapturously

inside the hall at Salome, daughter of

Herodias (Herodiade) and Herod’s

stepdaughter. Nearby is an old cistern,

guarded by two soldiers, where the prophet

Jochanaan (John the Baptist) has been

imprisoned by the Tetrarch. He is

proclaiming the coming of the Messiah:

”Nach mir wird Einer kommen, der ist

stärker als ich…” (”After me will come

another, who is stronger than I…”). The

guards are arguing about him: is he a saint

or a mad­man? Suddenly a Cappadocian

enters. He is intrigued by the prophet and

asks to see him. Following Herod’s orders

they refuse him access to the prisoner.

Scene 2

Salome then appears. Repulsed by Herod’s

lustful gaze she has left the banquet: ”Ich

will nicht bleiben. Ich kann nicht

bleiben…” (”I do not wish to stay. I cannot

stay…”). In spite of the page’s warning that

it will only bring him misfortune Narraboth

cannot tear his eyes away from Salome.

Jochanaan’s voice again rings out in the

night. Salome is fascinated and wants to

talk to him. She orders the guards to bring

the prisoner to her. When they refuse she

persuades Narraboth to make them obey


Scene 3

Jochanaan is dragged out of his prison and

brought before Salome. The princess is

fascinated by the mysterious utterances of

the prophet: ”Wo ist er, dessen

Sünden­becher jetzt voll ist?...” (”Where is

he, he whose cup of sins is full? …”), which

are aimed at Herod and, above all,


Währinger Straße 78, 1090


Salome is filled with desire for him, but he

rejects her and becomes even more virulent

in his attacks. This only increases Salome’s

desire for him: she now wants to touch his

white skin and black hair: ”Jochanaan, ich

bin verliebt in deinen Leib…” (”Jochanaan,

I am in love with your body…”). Jochanaan

pushes her away violently: ”Zurück, Tochter

Sodoms!” (”Get thee behind me, daughter of

Sodom!”). But nothing can stop Salome in

her desire and she tries to kiss him.

Horrified by this turn of events Narraboth

kills himself. Is his rage Jochanaan curses

the princess and is thrown back into the


Scene 4

Herod enters, followed by Herodias and his

court. He is obsessed with Salome and has

left the banquet to look for her: ”Wo ist

Salome? Wo ist die Prinzessin?...”) (”Where

is Salome? Where is the Princess?”). He

refuses to heed his wife’s pleas to return to

the banquet. When he discovers

Narraboth’s body he sees it as an evil

omen. At last he finds Salome. He tries to

seduce her by offering her the best wine,

the most succulent fruit: ”Salome, komm,

trink Wein mit mir…” (”Come Salome, drink

wine with me…”). Herodias tries in vain to

stop him. Herod becomes enraged when

Salome spurns his gifts. From inside the

cistern Jochanaan can be heard screaming

out his dire prophecies: ”Sieh, die Zeit ist

gekommen, der Tag von dem ich sprach ist

da” (”Look now! The time has come, the day

I prophesied has come!”). Herodias

dismisses the prophet’s fantasies, but

Herod, although denying it, is deeply

shaken. His wife orders him to hand over

the prisoner to the Jews, who have been

demanding his return for six months.

Herod refuses as Jochanaan is a holy man:

he has seen God.


Five Jews who are present at the scene are

debating as to whether Jochanaan is a true

prophet, the successor to Elias: ”Das kann

nicht sein. Seit dem Propheten Elias hat

niemand Gott gesehen…” (”That is

impossible. No one has seen God since the

prophet Elias…”). Herodias orders them to

be silent.

Two Nazarenes come to the assistance of

Jochanaan, saying that the Messiah has

indeed arrived and that he is raising the

dead. Herodias tries to silence them as

well. This arouses the prophet’s anger and

he continues to insult her.

Indifferent to what is taking place, Herod

orders Salome to dance for him. The

princess at first refuses, backed up by her

mother. She eventually accepts on

condition that the Tetrarch swears to grant

her whatever she desires. Dancing to a wild

rhythm Salome removes her seven veils,

one by one, under the lustful gaze of her

step-father. At the end of the dance Salome

is in a trance. She glances towards the

cistern and falls at Herod’s feet, in ecstasy.

The moment has come for him to grant his

promise. To Herod’s horror Salome

demands Jochanaan’s head on a silver

platter. Herod pleads with her to ask for

something else and even offers half of his

kingdom in exchange. Salome stands firm.

She is supported by her mother who

believes that she is doing this to avenge

her. Salome leans over the cistern, listening

for a sign of life: ”Es ist kein Laut zu

vernehmen…” (”Not a sound to be heard…”).

Just as she is about to send in the soldiers,

the executioner brings out the Baptist’s

head. Delirious with mad passion Salome

declares her love to the severed head in a

long and passionate tirade: ”Ah! du wolltest

mich nicht deinen Mund küssen lassen,

Jochanaan! Wohl, ich werde ihn jetzt

küssen…” (”Ah! You wouldn’t let me kiss

your lips Jochanaan! Well, now I am going

to kiss them”). Love’s mystery, she says, is

greater than death’s mystery. In a fit of

passion she kisses the prophet’s lips.

Herod, horrified, orders the guards to seize

Salome and put her to death.


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