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Salome Makes Her Bloody Auckland Debut in April

Salome Makes Her Bloody Auckland Debut in April


GEON Opera in Concert

Presented by the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra & The Trusts

Friday 18th April, 8pm, Auckland Town Hall, THE EDGE

March 17, 2008 – More than 100 years since it was first staged, Richard Strauss’ brilliantly decadent opera Salome will be performed in Auckland for the very first time on Friday 18th April by the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra.

Acclaimed soprano Margaret Medlyn will perform the title role of Salome. She heads (no pun intended) a stellar cast of Australasian singing talent for this special one night only performance at the Auckland Town Hall, THE EDGE.

Presented as a concert without costumes and sets, the GEON Opera in Concert performance will see the full 83-piece APO on stage with 13 singers, showcasing the musical mastery of the work which is considered to be one of the most powerful operas written, full of the atmosphere of the fin-de-siecle.

Salome is an unforgettable and mesmerising opera, with powerhouse roles for the singers and fascinating, almost overwhelming music,” says APO Manager of Artistic Planning, Dr. Antony Ernst. “Hearing it live is one of the greatest and most intense musical experiences you can have – especially with the calibre of cast we’ve assembled.”

Based on Oscar Wilde’s equally controversial play, the opera with its combination of biblical theme, the erotic and the murderous, has shocked audiences from its very first performance. The erotic Dance of the Seven Veils and its penultimate scene of Salome with the head of John the Baptist are two of the most memorable and notorious scenes in the opera canon.

“While no actual blood will be spilt, we can guarantee that the audience is in for a thrilling evening of music-making and singing of the highest order, capturing the drama and artistry of this work,” says APO Chief Executive, Barbara Glaser.

Margaret Medlyn’s portrayal of Salome in a 2003 Opera Australia production was widely acclaimed. Melbourne music critic Laurence Jenkins said: “New Zealand’s Margaret Medlyn is, without any reservations on my part, simply superb in the role… Medlyn’s chilling finale will be etched in my mind forever, so completely did her character’s mind snap both visually and vocally.”

The APO’s GEON Opera in Concert production of Salome will reunite Margaret Medlyn with tenor Richard Greager who will perform the role of her father Herod, as he did for Opera Australia, described by Harriet Cunningham of the Sun Herald as “a bibulous, slavering Herod, brilliantly portrayed by Richard Greager.”

Salome will also bring Dunedin-born, Switzerland-based bass Martin Snell home for his debut performance in the role of Jokanaan (John the Baptist). Mr. Snell’s last New Zealand appearance was his acclaimed performance as Klingsor in Parsifal at the 2006 New Zealand International Festival of the Arts.

The cast also includes Helen Medlyn as Herodias, Patrick Power as Narraboth and Sarah Castle as The Page and also features Grant Dickson, Richard Green, Jamie Allen, Derek Hill, Terry Barry, Benjamin Fifita Makisi and Malcolm Ede.

“Last year’s sold out Opera in Concert production of Beethoven’s Fidelio earned a standing ovation from the Auckland audience, illustrating how thrilling a concert performance can be with a full symphony orchestra on stage with internationally acclaimed singers,” says Ms. Glaser. “We are delighted that Salome brings some of New Zealand’s top singing talent back home making this a very special opportunity to showcase their vast talents.”

Tickets to Salome – GEON Opera in Concert (from $30-$130) available from Ticketek, Ph 09 307 5139,


Salome – Synopsis

Judea, A.D. 30 – From the moonlit terrace of King Herod’s palace, Narraboth, captain of the guard, gazes rapturously inside at the Princess Salome, who is feasting with her stepfather and his court. The voice of the prophet Jokanaan (John the Baptist) echoes from a deep cistern, where he is imprisoned by the king, who fears him. Salome, bored with Herod's lechery and his coarse guests, rushes out for fresh air and becomes curious when she hears Jockanaan curse Herodias, her mother. When the soldiers refuse to bring Jokanaan to her, Salome turns her wiles on Narraboth, who orders that Jokanaan be summoned. Salome is fascinated by the prophet and pours out her uncontrollable desire to touch him. The prophet rejects her, speaking of the Son of God who will come to save mankind. When Salome continues to beg for Jokanaan's kiss, Narraboth stabs himself in horror, and the prophet, revolted by her, curses her and descends back into his prison. The girl collapses in frustration and longing.

Herod appears, followed by his court and arguing with his wife Herodias. When he slips in Narraboth's blood, he becomes unnerved. His thoughts turn to Salome, and he tries to tempt her. She spurns his attentions. Renewed abuse from Jokanaan's subterranean voice harasses Herodias, who demands that Herod turn the prophet over to the Jews. Herod's refusal incurs an argument among several Jews concerning the nature of God, and a narrative of Christ's miracles by two Nazarenes.

Herod begs Salome to divert him by dancing and offers her anything she might wish in return. Salome makes him swear he will live up to his promise, then dances, slowly shedding seven veils and finishing her performance naked at his feet. Salome demands the head of Jokanaan on a silver platter, ignoring both her mother’s gloating and Herod's desperate attempts to offer alternatives. The terrified king finally gives in. After a tense pause, the arm of the executioner rises from the cistern, offering the head to Salome. As clouds obscure the moon, Salome seizes her reward passionately and makes love to the severed head, finally kissing the prophet's lips. Overcome with revulsion, Herod orders the soldiers to kill Salome.

Salome – The Scandal

* Salome was the most scandalous, sensationalized stage production of Strauss’ era. The premiere was met with riots and protest from the public, various government officials, including Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany, and the pulpit.

* At the world premiere in Dresden, the first Salome, Marie Wittich, protested the staging of the infamous Dance of the Seven Veils. "I won't do it," she exclaimed, "I'm a decent woman." And, for some years after it was traditional for a ballerina to perform the dance role as a double for the principal soprano.

* In the United States, a Metropolitan Opera production opened one evening and closed the next, in reaction to public outcry at the salacious Dance. It was not performed until after the death of the banker JP Morgan, whose threat to withdraw his sponsorship had lead to the ban. And then it was, for some reason, only performed in French for quite some time.

* At the first Covent Garden performance in 1910, conducted by Sir Thomas Beecham, Aino Ackte’s Salome sang her grisly Liebestod to an empty silver salver because the censorial lord chamberlain refused to permit the depiction of John the Baptist’s severed head on stage.

* Gustav Mahler – who described Salome as “a really great, very strong piece of work, which is definitely among the most significant of our time” and who was working at the Court Opera in Vienna at the time – could not gain the consent of the Vienna censor to have it performed (it was eventually premiered in 1918). The controversy was one of the matters which led to Mahler’s resignation.

* Kaiser Wilhelm told Strauss that although he admired him as a composer, Salome would do him a lot of damage. Strauss famously noted that over the next several years, as new productions of Salome continued to open before curious patrons around the globe, the "damage" to his career by the scandal surrounding Salome provided funds to build himself a substantial villa at Garmisch.


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