By Nikita Gourski, Development Communications Officer
In 1994, Canadian film director Atom Egoyan won international recognition for his film Exotica, a provocative meditation on erotic obsession and psychological trauma explored through the relationship of a nightclub dancer and her male client.
Shortly after Exotica’s release, the Canadian Opera Company approached Egoyan with an offer to direct an opera, a story so thematically saturated with voyeurism it seemed ideal for the young filmmaker’s sensibility: Richard Strauss’s Salome.
Unveiled in 1996, Egoyan’s production simultaneously recognized the deeply disturbing matter of the opera – a work that has inflamed scandal since its 1905 world premiere – while offering a fresh reading responsive to our contemporary culture. Rather than a first-century palace in Judea, Egoyan set the action in an abstract and foreboding environment, something between a spa and a sanatorium. Derek McLane’s set design is built around a diagonal plane tilted at a dangerously steep angle, with Jochanaan (John the Baptist) imprisoned underneath the floorboards instead of the subterranean cistern in which he’s traditionally kept.
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Storified by CanadianOperaCompany· Mon, Apr 29 2013 13:22:27
"Hanna Schwarz gives much more life to Herodias than one normally sees. She is fussy, self-important and the only character given to exaggerated gestures. She is clearly outraged that she must be seen to submit to a man she knows is weaker than she is. Although her lines sound a note of constant complaint, Schwarz never loses dark beauty of her lush voice and thereby makes Herodias an even more imposing figure." - Christopher Hoile, Stage Door
Posted by Danielle D'Ornellas / in Salome / comments (2) / permalink
Imagine the choreographer who turns to the libretto of Salome for the first time, looking for insight on the famous Dance of the Seven Veils. They find only the briefest and most general of instructions to guide their work: “Salome dances the Dance of the Seven Veils.” For a pivotal scene, it’s not much to go on.
Yet that brevity opens up the performance to a multitude of possible and legitimate interpretations. By saying next to nothing about how the dance should look, the libretto seems to recognize that an elusive and indefinable quality is woven into the dance… a quality that might resist pre-determined charting precisely because it originates from a mysterious place of self-expression.
Salome by Paul Klee, 1920 and The Dance of Salome by Benozzo Gozzoli, 1462
Salome was adapted from Oscar Wilde’s one-act play, in which the author omits specific choreographic instructions with the very same phrase that the opera’s libretto echoes, unchanged, 13 years later. Things only get more puzzling when we read Wilde’s personal inscription to illustrator Aubrey Beardsley. “For Aubrey,” Wilde wrote, “the only artist who, besides myself, knows what the dance of the seven veils is, and can see that invisible dance.”
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Sara Fulgoni in the COC production of Bluebeard's Castle. Photo: Michael Cooper © 2001