Rich and I were offered tickets to the final dress rehearsal for Salome at the Royal Opera House by his aunty; Rosalind Plowright – an opera singer who is in the production.
Spending Monday morning at an opera in Covent Garden is quite surreal. But a rather nice cultural injection – after a weekend slightly lacking in culture.
Based on the biblical story of Salome, the opera follows a young woman, Salome, who is living in a palace. Her grotesque step-father is sexually attracted to her and this infuriates her mother.
Down in the dungeons – John the Baptist (known as Jochanaan) is being held. Salome begins obsessing over meeting him and when her wish is granted she falls for him – begging her to kiss him. He won’t and she becomes hysterical; flitting between desperate attempts to seduce him and hurling crude insults.
Once he is taken back to the dungeon (and a guard has killed himself – because he’s in love with Salome and has lost control, I think) her step-father finds her downstairs and asks her to dance for him – offering to give her whatever she wants if she submits to his request.
Much to her mother’s dismay – Salome agrees to dance for him but once she is finished she demands that he bring her the head of John the Baptist on a silver tray. After trying to dissuade her – offering her half the kingdom and all sorts of alternatives gifts – her step-father agrees to bring her the decapitated head.
When Salome recieves the bloody head, she embraces it – and gets the kiss she desired.
It is all fairly sordid and gory – and concludes with her step-father ordering a guard to kill Salome. He complies. And that’s the end.
The orchestra were fantastic – as were all the perfomers.
Overall – a rather interesting Monday morning at the opera.
And I’ve just found a poem by Carol Ann Duffy – based on the same story:
I’d done it before
(and doubtless I’ll do it again,
sooner or later)
woke up with a head on the pillow beside me -whose? –
what did it matter?
Good- looking, of course, dark hair, rather matted;
the reddish beard several shades lighter;
with very deep lines around the eyes,
from pain, I’d guess, maybe laughter;
and a beautiful crimson mouth that obviously knew
how to flatter…
which I kissed…
Colder than pewter.
Strange. What was his name? Peter?
Simon? Andrew? John? I knew I’d feel better
for tea, dry toast, no butter,
so rang for the maid.
And, indeed, her innocent clatter
of cups and plates,
her clearing of clutter,
her regional patter,
were just what needed –
hungover and wrecked as J was from a night on the batter.
I needed to clean up my act,
cut out the booze and the fags and the sex.
Yes. And as for the latter,
it was time to turf out the blighter,
the beater or biter,
who’d come like a lamb to the slaughter
to Salome’s bed.
In tile mirror, I saw my eyes glitter.
I flung back the sticky red sheets,
and there, like I said -and ain’t life a bitch –
was his head on a platter.