“Salome” in Philadelphia



Richard Strauss


May 8, 10, 2014 | Verizon Hall
Opera with The Philadelphia Orchestra

A historic collaboration.  A provocative masterpiece.

The Philadelphia Orchestra and Opera Philadelphia will team up for a first-ever collaboration in the 2013-2014 Season—a theatrically-inspired production of Richard Strauss’s compelling and provocative masterpiece, Salome. Two performances only, on Thursday, May 8 and Saturday, May 10, 2014 in the Kimmel Center’s Verizon Hall, will be led by Philadelphia Orchestra Music Director Yannick Nézet-Séguin!

Celebrate the 150th anniversary of the composer’s birth with a timeless treatment of an age-old, biblical tale, as Verizon Hall is transformed with custom-built staging elements, stylized costumes, theatrical lighting, and innovative design elements. The result is a completely immersive, 4-D concert environment—one that transports the audience into the heart of the action, with the musical score as the driving force. See and hear The Philadelphia Orchestra on stage alongside opera stars Camilla Nylund (Salome), Birgit Remmert (Herodias), John Mac Master (Herod), Alan Held (John the Baptist), and Andrew Staples (Narraboth).

Ticketing update: These performances are sold out on subscription. Ticket availability may change and we encourage you to check again. Please e-mail patronservices@philorch.org if you require further assistance.

All dates, programs, prices, and artists subject to change. All tickets are subject to availability and additional fees.


Verizon Hall at the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts
300 S Broad Street, Philadelphia, PA 19102

Schedule Details:

Thursday, May 8, 2014 at 8:00 pm
Saturday, May 10, 2014 at 8:00 pm

Estimated Running Time:

Approximately 1 hour and 45 minutes with no intermission

Language: Performed in German with English supertitles



Camilla Nylund*
as Salome

Birgit Remmert*
as Herodias


Alan Held*
as Jochanaan

Andrew Staples*
as Narraboth

Cecelia Hall
as Page of Herodias


Wayne Tigges*
as First Nazarene

Keith Miller*
as First Soldier

Donovan Singletary*
as Second Soldier


Dominic Armstrong
as First Jew

Roy Hage*
as Second Jew

Joseph Gaines
as Third Jew


Corey Bix*
as Fourth Jew

Nicholas Masters
as Fifth Jew

Eric Dubin
as Second Nazarene & Cappadocian


Alison Sanders
as Slave

Creative Team

*Opera Philadelphia Debut



Considered scandalous when it premiered in 1905, and banned for years in the U.S. and elsewhere, Strauss’s adaptation of Oscar Wilde’s play is among the most important musical works of the 20th century. Mahler, who attended the 1906 premiere along with Puccini, Zemlinsky, and Schoenberg, praised the piece as “one of the greatest masterworks of our time.” This fast-paced, one-act opera is known as much for its revolutionary use of large-scale orchestra and virtuosic singers as it is for its graphic depiction of this deeply psychological tale. At the core of this erotically-charged opera set in biblical times exists a tangled and disturbed triangle: the persecuted John the Baptist, a lecherous King Herod, and the monarch’s pathologically seductive stepdaughter, Salome, who eventually demands the head of the imprisoned prophet on a silver platter. This virtuosic score of massive proportions culminates with the famous and controversial “Dance of the Seven Veils,” as well as an explicit scene with the beheaded prisoner.


Time: Circa A.D. 30
Place: The Great Terrace of Herod’s Palace on the Sea of Gaiilee
Opera in One Act

Herod, King of Judea, is feasting with his court in the palace of Tiberias on the Sea of Galilee. From the terrace, Narraboth, the Captain of the Guard, gazes at the King’s beautiful stepdaughter, Salome, with whom he is in love, and ignores the warnings of the Page, who loves and admires him. Salome comes out to look at the moonlight and to escape the noise and vulgarity of the banquet. She hears the voice of Jochanaan (John the Baptist), imprisoned by Herod in a cistern beneath the terrace. He is announcing the coming of the Messiah. Fascinated, she asks to see him and when the guards refuse for fear of disobeying the King’s orders, she persuades Narraboth to do as she asks.

The Prophet emerges and denounces Herod and his wife Herodias, Salome’s mother, who has married her murdered husband’s brother. Salome is filled with desire for him. When he tells her to leave everything to seek the Son of Man, she only answers, “Who is he, the Son of Man? Is he as beautiful as thou art?” and sings ecstatically of his beauty and her desire to kiss his mouth. Narraboth, unable to bear it, kills himself, but she barely notices that he took his life. Jochanaan curses Salome when he realizes that she is the daughter of Herodias and descends once more into his dungeon. Herod comes out of the palace. His lust for Salome provokes a quarrel with Herodias who demands the death of Jochanaan for his insults to her. But Herod holds him in awe, considering him to be a holy man, and the Jews come forward to dispute his teachings.

In need of a diversion, Herod begs Salome to dance. At first unwilling, she consents when Herod promises her anything she desires. The dance finished, she throws herself on the floor in front of Herod and demands the head of Jochanaan. His desire for her gives way to abhorrence, but he agrees at last. From the cistern, the executioner hands up the head on a silver platter and she seizes it in a frenzy of joy.

He who has despised her love must now accept it, she who had craved for him can sate herself in kissing his mouth as longs as she pleases. Sick with horror, King Herod shouts to the guards to kill her, and she is crushed to death beneath their shields.


 In the last two decades of the nineteenth century and the first of the twentieth century, Richard Strauss became a very popular topic of conversation in Europe. His operas, Salome (1905) and Elektra (1909) provoked both discussion and scandal as his work seemed too progressive for his audiences. “As a result, his musically challenging operas received negative critical response. 

Strauss was born in 1864 in the German state of Bayern, the first child of Franz and Josephine Strauss. His father was a skilled musician and consequently a great influence on his musical development. At the age of four and a half Richard began playing the piano and violin, and at the age of six he began to compose his first pieces. His first compositions were heavily influenced by his father’s musical preferences, Mozart, Haydn and Beethoven.

Although Franz’s conservative outlook tried to steer his son toward academia first, Richard’s schooling lasted only a short time. In 1884, Strauss’ musical career began when Hans von Buelow, the director of the Meininger Hoflkapelle appointed the 23-year old assistant conductor of his orchestra, one of the finest European orchestras at the time. This appointment proved to be the first and most important step for Strauss as a conductor and composer. Influenced by Alexander Ratter, a violinist of the Meininger orchestra, and freed from the musical taste of his father, Strauss started to compose “modern” music.

From the start, Strauss’ compositions divided audiences, but he but he felt that such reactions were an indication that he was doing something right. Instead of hindering his work he felt complimented, his innovative style a mark of the musical genius misunderstood by society.

As his reputation preceded him, Strauss became a director of the much large Munich Orchestra in 1886. Here he continued the concept of transferring literary pieces into musical form through the genre of the ‘tone poem.’ In the midst of his aspiring career, Strauss married the soprano singer Pauline d’Ahna in 1894.

Richard directed several of the great European orchestras spending a few years with the Weimar Hofkapelle, the King’s Opera in Berlin and later moved on to the Vienna Opera in Austria. During this period Strauss began composing operas and had his first work, Guntram, open in 1894.

In 1903 he saw Oscar Wilde’s play, Salome, and was so fascinated, that after the performance he went straight home to begin composing music for the opera. Two years later, Strauss’ Salome opened in Dresden and shocked audiences. As a result of its controversial content, many European opera companies refused to perform Salome for fear of censorship. Strauss felt that in order to drive the drama in a play like Salome, it was necessary to compose music that intensified both the actions and emotions of the characters. Strauss had succeeded in creating an innovative style of opera with unusual music. The vocalist and musicians were challenged to follow his difficult and at times atonal verses while the audience was challenged to appreciate it.

In 1904, he travelled to the United States where he conducted his music in many major concert halls. During this tour, he conducted the Philadelphia Orchestra at the Academy of Music on March 4th and 5th.

Strauss continued his musical originality with Elektra (1909) and later with Der Rosenkavalier (1911) both composed with noted writer Hugo von Hofmannsthal. These were the last important operas that Strauss composed and which challenged the musical world. In the following years Richard Strauss wrote operas like Ariadne auf Naxos, Die Frau ohne Schatten, and Intermezzo which did not enjoy nearly the same degree of success. Strauss, still working on his old formulas, did not notice that European music was moving in a another direction.

When the Nazi party came into power in the 1930s, Strauss was appointed president of the Reichmusikkammer, the government department responsible for regulating art and culture. He had never interested himself in politics because, in his experience, governments shifted like sand.

Strauss had worked in Germany before the unification, under the Kaiser’s united German government, through the First World War, under the new Weimar Republic, and now was confronted by working under the fourth government of his life, the Nazis. Strauss thought that the Nazis were simply a new band in the long parade of governments whose time would soon pass. As a result of these experiences, he accepted the position because it enabled him to continue to compose and support his family.

Strauss seemed to be pro-Nazi when he stepped in to conduct a Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra concert when the Jewish conductor Bruno Walter was denied permission. He then donated his fee to the musicians. He was not an anti-Semite. His daughter-in-law was Jewish as were his grandchildren.

Soon after Hitler came to power in January of 1933, a law was issued that all German theaters could no longer perform any piece of music or staged drama in which non-Aryans performed or had any part in the production. As a result, Mendelssohn’s music was banned. However, Strauss had already begun to work on a new opera with his Jewish librettist Stefan Zweig. The work on the opera Die schweigsame Frau continued despite the law. Zweig was unsure it would be heard. Strauss had to go to both Goebbels and Hitler to get permission for the opera to be performed.

In a letter to Zweig, that the Nazis opened, he wrote that he conducted the concert years earlier only for the sake of “the orchestra.” This was not the answer the Nazis expected. It was obvious that he was not one of them. A few weeks later, when his and Zweig’s opera was about to be premiered the Dresden Opera, he asked to see the stage bill. When he saw that Stefan Zweig’s name was not on it, he threatened to leave the city unless his name was added. They did as he had requested but as a result, the manager of the opera house was fired from his post.

Soon the Nazis were at Strauss’ door and he was told to resign his post as president of the Reichsmusikkammer because of his “poor health.” Later, when he refused to allow the government to house armament workers in his villa, the government took it from him. It was the destruction of the opera houses and concert halls of Germany, the center of his reality, that caused him to realize the times. The total war destruction of the centers of the performing arts left him deeply depressed.

After the war, he worked with the new occupation government and was given permission to go to Switzerland where he composed an Oboe concerto for an American soldier, John de Lance, who was the principal oboist of the Philadelphia Orchestra. In 1948, he wrote his five last songs for orchestra and voice. He died in his sleep in 1949 at the age of eighty-five.

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