The opera is famous (at the time of its premiere, infamous) for this movement - "Dance of the Seven Veils". It is now better known for the more shocking final scene (often a concert-piece for dramatic sopranos), where Salome declares her love to – and kisses – the severed head of John the Baptist.
Oscar Wilde originally wrote his Salomé in French. Strauss saw the play in Lachmann's version and immediately set to work on an opera. The play's formal structure was well-suited to musical adaptation. Wilde himself described Salomé as containing "refrains whose recurring motifs [Wilde's emphasis] make it so like a piece of music and bind it together as a ballad".
Strauss composed the opera in German, and that is the version that has become widely known. It has a long history, however, of being presented also in French, which was the language in which perhaps the world's most famous proponent of the role, Mary Garden, sang the opera in New York, Chicago, Milwaukee, Paris, and other cities. Soprano Marjorie Lawrence sang the role in both French (for Paris) and German (for the Metropolitan Opera, New York) in the 1930s. In 1930, Strauss made an alternate version in French, the language of the original Oscar Wilde play. This version is less known today, although it was revived in Lyon in 1990, performances of which were recorded by Kent Nagano with Karen Huffstodt in the title role and José van Dam as Jochanaan. In 2011, the French version was staged by Liège Opera, starring June Anderson.
More pieces by Strauss
- Morgen! (Op.27, No. 4)