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Discuss the Musical Construction of at Least one Character from Wagner’s Salome.Describe How the Composer(s) Use(s) Musical Techniques to Contribute to the Construction of Your Chosen Character(s).You Should Also Consider the Cultural, Historical and Mu

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Essay title: Discuss the Musical Construction of at Least one Character from Wagner’s Salome.Describe How the Composer(s) Use(s) Musical Techniques to Contribute to the Construction of Your Chosen Character(s).You Should Also Consider the Cultural, Historical and Mu

For the purposes of this essay, I have chosen to concentrate on the characters portrayed in Richard Strauss’ 1905 opera, Salome. The majority of the attention will be placed on Salome herself, but other characters will be referred to where applicable.

Before the composition of Salome, Strauss had risen to prominence through his numerous tone poems, a form established by Franz Liszt in the mid 19th century, the most notable of which are Don Juan (1889) and Also Sprach Zarathustra (1896). In his early twenties, Strauss had been introduced to the theories of Richard Wagner; Strauss applied these theories in the tone poem with his use of leitmotif. Strauss was also attracted to the extremism of Wagner’s work and also wanted to explore the boundaries of the newly emerging avant-garde artists. As a continuation of his interest in ‘storytelling’, Strauss began to turn his attention to opera. His first two attempts, Guntram (1894) and Feuersnot (1901), were not very well received. Strauss, affected by his failures, intended to take a break from opera and concentrate on more traditional orchestral works.

However, he was presented with a copy of Oscar Wilde’s play Salome in 1902 and was encouraged to compose an opera of the same name. First published in French (due to it being banned in England) in 1894, the play depicts the biblical tale of Salome, the stepdaughter of King Herod of Judea, who after dancing for her stepfather at his birthday feast., is given the opportunity to ask for anything she desires. She orders, at the behest of her mother Herodias (who had married Herod despite her previous husband still being alive, John the Baptist regarded their marriage as incestuous), for the head of John the Baptist (Jokanaan) and so is responsible for his murder. In recent renditions of the story (Sudermann (1897) and opera by Massenet (Herodias 1881)), the character of Salome had begun an obsession with Johkanaan, whilst Herod had become similarly inclined towards Salome. In Wilde’s version the character of Salome becomes lustful after Jokanaan and wants his body for her own. She is presented with the severed head and kisses it, which is the climax of the opera and is ordered to be killed by Herod as a result. In the Bible, Salome is never mentioned by name and requests for the head without her mothers influence. Wilde was particularly interested in the thinking of the nineteenth century painter, Gustave Moreau and his portrayal of female perversity as an evil and dangerous prospect. Salome has barely reached puberty yet is portrayed as both a virgin and a whore, proving her innocence by her young age but also her extreme desires by lusting after Jokanaan and finally kissing his head. “In the turn-of-the-century imagination, the figure of Salome epitomised the inherent perversity of women: their internal circularity and their ability to destroy the male’s soul even while they remained nominally chaste in body” (Dijkstra: 384). Strauss and Wilde were reversing opera gender roles with Salome, it was “a very carefully designed dramatisation of the struggle between the bestial hunger of woman and the idealistic yearnings of man” (Djikstra: 396). In opera, the female is traditionally portrayed as a victim of men’s desires and circumstances are not usually in her favour. This reversal is maintained until the very end of the opera: when Salome is murdered the dominance of men is restored. The controversial nature of the play attracted Strauss towards it; with the failures of his previous two operas, Salome would at least bring him notoriety if nothing else.

Salome is an opera told in one act, without an overture and interval; Strauss didn’t want any peripheral material to detract from the dramatic content. In addition to the libretto, Strauss composed numerous leitmotifs to enhance the narrative of the work. There are two leitmotifs which apply to Salome; the first coming at the beginning of the opera and the second at Salome’s first entry, which is in A major. (figure 20, bar 5).At her first entry Salome is immediately associated with a dance rhythm, as her music is in 3/4 . The use of this time signature is a precursor of Salome’s dance later in the opera, which makes use of waltz rhythms, though also combined with more exotic and wild elements than this traditional dance form. Jokanaan also benefits from a ‘theme’ of his own; first appearing at figure 66, it then gets watered down during his dialogue with Salome, a reflection of the imminent change of authority and his loss of integrity. His theme reappears in its original form during Salome’s monologue at figure 341 as if Jokanaan is restored to life (Puffett, 1989:69).

The Dance of the Seven Veils is arguably the physical and musical embodiment of Salome’s character. This dance provides the means by which she can acquire the head of Jokanaan and therefore it is a symbol of the perversion that

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(2009, 12). Discuss the Musical Construction of at Least one Character from Wagner’s Salome.Describe How the Composer(s) Use(s) Musical Techniques to Contribute to the Construction of Your Chosen Character(s).You Should Also Consider the Cultural, Historical and Mu. EssaysForStudent.com. Retrieved 12, 2009, from https://www.essaysforstudent.com/essays/Discuss-the-Musical-Construction-of-at-Least-one/24871.html

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"Discuss the Musical Construction of at Least one Character from Wagner’s Salome.Describe How the Composer(s) Use(s) Musical Techniques to Contribute to the Construction of Your Chosen Character(s).You Should Also Consider the Cultural, Historical and Mu." EssaysForStudent.com. 12, 2009. Accessed 12, 2009. https://www.essaysforstudent.com/essays/Discuss-the-Musical-Construction-of-at-Least-one/24871.html.