Tuesday, October 14, 2008

"Gib mir den Kopf des Jochanaan" & I Am Not Amused

"Gib mir den Kopf des Jochanaan" "Give me the head of John the Baptist".

Another season of the Metropolitan Opera HD broadcasts into movie theatres is underway. What a wonderful thing this is for those of us who can't afford (or don't wish to) fork out big bucks for a ticket to live theatre and opera. I have no idea what a cheap seat at the Met costs but today's live performance of Richard Strauss' Salome at my local movie theatre (to which I had to travel 45 minutes) cost me $25.25 Canadian dollars.

This is up a couple of dollars from the previous season. Well I guess we're all resigned to the fact that the price of stuff keeps going up but a quick glance at my ticket revealed an Amusement Tax of $2.20 - 10% of the ticket cost. Huh?

The opera Salome is based on the biblical verses Matthew 14:3-11 (NIV)although there's more in the opera than in these biblical passages:

3 Now Herod had arrested John and bound him and put him in prison because of Herodias, his brother Philip's wife,

4 for John had been saying to him: "It is not lawful for you to have her."

5 Herod wanted to kill John, but he was afraid of the people, because they considered him a prophet.

6 On Herod's birthday the daughter of Herodias (SALOME) danced for them and pleased Herod so much

7 that he promised with an oath to give her whatever she asked.

8 Prompted by her mother, she (SALOME) said, "Give me here on a platter the head of John the Baptist."

9 The king was distressed, but because of his oaths and his dinner guests, he ordered that her request be granted

10 and had John beheaded in the prison.

11 His head was brought in on a platter and given to the girl (SALOME), who carried it to her mother.

In the opera, the bored Princess Salome tries to seduce John the Baptist and when he spurns her advances and rebukes her, she can't get over it. Later when her step-father (Herod) asks her to dance for him, she refuses. He is persistent and promises her anything if only she will dance for him. She agrees. The idiot should have asked her what she wanted BEFORE the dance commenced as it's only afterwards that she requests the head of John the Baptist on a silver platter. Herod tries to talk her out of it but Salome won't budge. Since he swore an oath to give her whatever she desired, he couldn't refuse and gives the executioner the order to behead John.

So there she is, holding the head of John the Baptist and singing to it in a wild frenzy. Herod is so disgusted that he commands the executioner to kill Salome.

This makes for great opera. The powerful and dramatic music of Richard Strauss together with the exemplary performance of Finnish soprano, Karita Mattila kept us capitvated for two hours (without intermission).

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