As part of a 6 October 2018 pre-performance discussion of Richard Strauss’ Salome at the English National Opera, Dr Dafydd Mills Daniel discusses the biblical source for Oscar Wilde’s play, Salome, upon which Strauss’ opera is based.
In exploring how Wilde and Strauss subverted the traditional interpretations of the biblical story of Salome, Dafydd places Wilde’s play and Strauss’ opera in the context of movements in 19th century theology and philosophy.
Wilde and Strauss used Salome to undermine the conventional dualities we often use to interpret the world – human and divine, holy and profane, good and evil. These dualities are not opposites, but part of the spiritual dimensions of this life which is always a ‘muddy’ mixture of that which Wilde called ‘beauty and sorrow’.
As a result, Wilde’s and Strauss’ portrayal of Salome forms part of their criticism of narrow understandings of human existence: religious ascetism, materialism, and nihilism. With reference to Wilde’s De Profundis, Dafydd suggests that Wilde made these criticisms in his play by representing Salome as Christ-like.
You can listen the English National Opera pre-performance discussion with Dafydd, alongside Francesca Tennant, Richard Peirson, and host Dr Flora Willson here.