Work: Dance of the Seven Veils
About This Work
Richard Strauss' opera Salome stirred wide controversy when it was premiered in 1905, both for the advanced nature of its music and for its decadent story line. Salome's seductive dance was certainly one of the more notorious scenes from this
convention-shattering work. In the opera it comes after Salome, stepdaughter of King Herod, is rebuffed by John the Baptist, who is held in the King's dungeons. Angered by the rejection, Salome agrees to dance for Herod on the condition that he grant her wish, which turns out to be the presentation to her of John the Baptist's head on a silver platter. After her dance she is granted her wish, but is later sentenced to death by Herod.
The dance opens in a frenzied mood, the music propelled by anxious drums and tambourine, but the tempo slows quickly and a sinister waltz rhythm is presented. The mood is exotic, the oboe singing Eastern-flavored music, with the strings and tambourine soon joining in to impart a dreamy, yet seductive character. Gradually, the music becomes more animated, more sensual, and more sinister, the whole writhing in a colorful decadence, in a deliciously twisted sense of festivity. The music turns frenzied and utterly fanatical in its driving rhythms as it reaches its powerful climax, after which it relaxes for a brief moment, before rushing toward an ambivalent though colorful ending.
-- Robert Cummings
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