Please Wait...

Simon Estes – Baritone – “Wo ist Er?” – Jochanaan – “Salome” – R. Strauss

by Luca

Simon Estes – “Wo ist Er?” – Jochanaan – “Salome” – R. Strauss.
Wonderful dramatic baritone voice!!!

The music of “Salome” includes a system of leitmotifs, or short melodies with symbolic meanings. Some are clearly associated with people such as Salome and Jochanaan (John the Baptist). Others are more abstract in meaning. Strauss’s use of leitmotifs is complex, with both symbolism and musical form subject to ambiguity and transformation. Some leitmotifs, especially those associated with Herod, change frequently in form and symbolic meaning, making it futile to pin them down to a specific meaning. Strauss provided names for some of the leitmotifs, but not consistently, and other people have assigned a variety of names. These names often illustrate the ambiguity of certain leitmotifs. For example, Gilman’s labels tend to be abstract (such as “Yearning”, “Anger”, and “Fear”), while Roese more concrete (he called Gilman’s “Fear” leitmotif “Herod’s Scale”). Regarding the important leitmotif associated with Jochanaan, which has two parts, Gilman called the first part “Jochanaan” and the second part “Prophecy”, while Roese labels them the other way around. Labels for the leitmotifs are common, but there is no final authority. Derrick Puffett cautions against reading too much into any such labels. In addition to the leitmotifs, there are many symbolic uses of musical color in the opera’s music. For example, a tambourine sounds every time a reference to Salome’s dance is made.
The harmony of Salome makes use of extended tonality, chromaticism, a wide range of keys, unusual modulations, tonal ambiguity, and polytonality. Some of the major characters have keys associated with them, such as Salome and Jochanaan, as do some of the major psychological themes, such as desire and death.
Strauss wrote the opera’s libretto, in the process cutting almost half of Wilde’s play, stripping it down and emphasizing its basic dramatic structure. The structural form of Strauss’s libretto is highly patterned, notably in the use of symmetry and the hierarchical grouping of events, passages, and sections in threes. Examples of three-part structure include Salome’s attempt to seduce Narraboth, in order to get him to let her see Jochanaan. She tries to seduce him three times, and he capitulates on the third. When Jochanaan is brought before Salome he issues three prophecies, after which Salome professes love for Jochanaan three times—love of his skin, his hair, and his lips, the last of which results in Jochanaan cursing her. In the following scene Herod three times asks Salome to be with him—to drink, eat, and sit with him. She refuses each time. Later Herod asks her to dance for him, again three times. Twice she refuses, but the third time Herod swears to give her whatever she wants in return and she accepts. After she dances and says she wants Jochanaan’s head on a platter, Herod, not wanting to execute the Prophet, makes three offers—an emerald, peacocks, and finally, desperately, the Veil of the Sanctuary of the Holy of Holies. Salome rejects all three offers, each time more stridently insisting on Jochanaan’s head. Three-part groupings occur elsewhere on both larger and smaller levels.
The famously dissonant chord near the end of the opera, marked sfz in this reduced score.
In the final scene of the opera, after Salome kisses Jochanaan’s severed head, the music builds to a dramatic climax, which ends with a cadence involving a very dissonant unorthodox chord at measure 360 in the score. This single chord has been widely commented on. It has been called “the most sickening chord in all opera”, an “epoch-making dissonance with which Strauss takes Salome…to the depth of degradation”, and “the quintessence of Decadence: here is ecstasy falling in upon itself, crumbling into the abyss”. The chord is polytonal, with a low A7 (a dominant seventh chord) merged with a higher F-sharp major chord. It forms part of a cadence in the key of C-sharp major and is approached and resolved from C–sharp major chords. Not only is the chord shockingly dissonant, especially in its musical context and rich orchestration, it has broader significance due in part to Strauss’s careful use of keys and leitmotifs to symbolize the opera’s characters, emotions such as desire, lust, revulsion, and horror, as well as doom and death. A great deal has been written about this single chord and its function within the large-scale formal structure of the entire opera.