|Karita Mattila as Salome|
The final moment when Salome is brought Jokanaan’s head on a platter is just a masterpiece of music-theatre: the divided orchestra plays a trill, making a quivering noise that is punctuated by the “oriental” four-note phrase of the flute and oboe; Salome sings of kissing Jokanaan’s mouth, of the bitter taste, a taste like blood, like love, like death; she seems horrified at her own actions, at what she has drive herself to; but then she sings the words again, louder, accompanied by the orchestra playing the ‘Salome motif’ louder, triumphantly. There is a huge release of sound and emotion, ended moments later when Herod orders his guards to kill her. Wonderful stuff.
Much as I love Strauss, I do wonder what it is that marks the difference between other composers of opera. It occurs to me that if you described their effect in terms of how they might make love, it would be something like this:
- Strauss is devoted to pleasure, and he delivers the goods at the end, but you get the feeling that it’s practiced, and that ultimately he keeps a part of himself disengaged.
- Verdi would be the lover who wants to impress, to show off to you, to floor you with his technique.
- But that would still be different to Beethoven, who keeps banging away and doesn’t hide the fact that he enjoys the occasional use of force.
- Mozart, however, gives you the ultimate good time: varied, responsive, knowing all there is to know about the art, finding different and new ways to give pleasure, almost always guaranteed to produce multiple satisfactions.
Er, let me see, where was I ... I was talking about music, wasn’t I?
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