“What Camp taste responds to is instant character… [which] is understood as a state of continual incandescence—a person being one, very intense thing.” — Susan Sontag, “Notes on ‘Camp’ “*
SALOME is an opera of instant character, and its exaltation of lust remains undiluted. Bodies and things are transposed, and the protagonists begin and end the narrative as unattainable objects of desire: Herod will never possess his step-daughter Salome, and Salome will never possess the prisoner Jochanaan (John the Baptist).
“Jochanaan, you were so beautiful….Your body was like a garden….You saw your God, but you never saw me.” — Salome
In 1905, Richard Strauss adapted Hedwig Lachmann’s German translation of Oscar Wilde’s play (which was written in French), and the first hour of the opera is a modern fever of polyrhythms and bitonality (the “Salome scale”). As the fatal obstinacy of Salome and Jochanaan hardens, the swift pace gives way to measured deliberation. In the current L.A. Opera production, beautifully conducted by James Conlon, soprano Patricia Racette embodies Salome—voice, body, and soul—and brings down the house.
Saturday, February 25 at 7:30 pm; Thursday, March 2 at 7:30 pm; Sunday, March 5 at 2 pm; Thursday, March 16 at 7:30 pm; and Sunday, March 19 at 2 pm.
DOROTHY CHANDLER PAVILION, Music Center, Los Angeles.
*”Notes on ‘Camp’ ” was published in the Fall, 1964 issue of Partisan Review, and is included in the Library of America edition Susan Sontag: Essays of the 1960s & 70s.
Note on the illustration: In 2016, the L.A. Opera and the philanthropic initiative GRoW@Annenberg invited students from Southern California colleges to participate in the opera company’s first ever art contest. Marshall Dahlin of Cal State Fullerton was the first place winner, and his design illustrates the cover of the Salome program. The artwork is a less-epicene nod to Aubrey Beardsley’s drawings for the first English translation of Wilde’s play (and Marcus Behmer’s for the German edition), and locates the decapitation-as-castration theme of the piece.