• The Music of SALOME

    By COC Staff

    One of opera’s greatest thrillers returns to the COC stage this season when Richard Strauss’ Salome opens on February 3, 2023! This groundbreaking work tells the unforgettable tale of its iconic title character, delivering a one-act tragedy that continues to shock audiences with each new performance.

    A fusion of opera, theatre, dance, and film, our acclaimed production features the singular cinematic voice of Academy Award-nominated director Atom Egoyan. The Canadian-Armenian artist brings an innovative visual approach to the work, utilizing projections, film, shadow play, and dance to punctuate the opera’s electric story and score. Praised for presenting an “even more powerful” Salome, our production makes its first appearance since its acclaimed 2013 run.

    Legendary German composer Richard Strauss composed one of his most-influential scores for Salome, pushing opera toward the modern in the first decade of the twentieth century. Indeed, Strauss’ score experiments with established musical concepts like leitmotifs—following The Flying Dutchman’s lead 60 years after its premiere—using distinct melodies and keys to represent characters, moods, and the relationships between them. The title character’s C-sharp major leitmotif, for example, is dissonant—lacking harmony—with the C major leitmotif of the ill-fated target of her desire, Jochanaan. Strauss thus uses this musical incompatibility not only to communicate the two characters’ distinct identities, but to emphasize their intense misalignment.

    This clashing of sounds continues throughout the score, keeping audiences on their toes throughout the story’s many twists and turns. Strauss employed unique instruments like the heckelphone and timpani to create soundscapes regularly described as “thunder,” “noise,” and an “orchestral cacophony.” These dissonant sounds and intriguing instrumental decisions create suspense and surprise throughout the work, building toward the opera’s climactic finale, which the composer caps off with one chord regularly described as “the most sickening chord in all opera"—often compared to Wagner's "Tristan chord" from Tristan und Isolde. In an opera with such legendary final moments, Strauss finds a musical complement shocking enough to match.

    Like Carmen, the work has gone through many iterations before reaching the COC stage in its current form. Legendary poet and playwright Oscar Wilde first premiered the work—an expansion of a Biblical tale—as a play in 1896 Paris, to a mixed response across Europe, from banishment in Britain to popular acclaim in Strauss’ Germany. From there, Salome saw the opera stage in 1905, a ballet adaptation in 1908, and multiple film adaptations in the century since. With Egoyan’s directorial eye, our production unites these many approaches, bringing the opera’s history to the stage with innovative twenty-first century twists.

    As we prepare for the start of the 2022/2023 season, and the always-intense Salome, experience the opera’s thrilling musical storytelling with the COC Orchestra’s performance of “The Dance of the Seven Veils.”

    Salome opens February 3, 2023, and runs until February 24, 2023. Tickets on sale Friday, September 2.

    Photos: Michael Cooper, Chris Hutcheson
    Posted in 22/23 Season


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