Deutsche Oper Berlin, 2003
"Brecht pupil Achim Freyer shows Richard Strauss' Salome differently than ever seen before … . Boisterous calls of protest amid audience cheers.
"Freyer looks behind the mask of Salome, the femme fatale who beautifully and banally murdered men in literature, paintings and music around the turn of the last century. For him, the Jewish princess is fully a product of today's society: a spoiled, elevated daughter 'at the main threshold of capitalism.' She is allowed to demand and take everything, yet she senses that life could give her more than possessions or power or
fantastic ideas. So it is the despairing search for love that siezes hold of her, which Strauss arrayed in glittering orchestra colors. …
"The most disturbing aspect of this performance at the Deutsche Oper Berlin … is not so much Freyer's modern conclusive interpretation, which is underlain with moralism, as the imagery in his stage design for this piece that once inspired a theatrical scandal; the civilized horror-world of dishonor and war in colorful media may hardly provoke a weary smile.
"… For Freyer the piece is mainly a 'big sex drama,' and just as Princess Salome's embodiment of lust, violence and anarchy here avoids every identification with the usual, elegant theatrical figure, Herodes and the Queen Jochanaan and Narraboth and the quintet of Jews are also shown as absurd, experimental and circus-like. Unsophisticated inhabitants of a trashy opera world. They resemble debauched puppets more than people; in their crudely striped, gaudily accessorized outfits they are closer to precisely formed dilapidation than the appearance of order. ...
"Dancing between two fires here seems perpetual: performers fall to the floor, curl into a balls, grimace, contort themselves, gesticulate wildly like a punchinellos. The viewer has something to chew on. During Salome's legendary lascivious dance preceding the decapitation of Jochanaan, Freyer naturally does not emphasize the voyeurism of Herodes's libidinous court, or the audience. Instead it becomes a collective dance exercise followed by communal blood lust with latent carnivalistic madness – half child's play, half dream vision – and sexual satisfaction of the title-heroine turned monster, who lustily defiles herself with blood.
"The longing and a universal desire within systematized delusions gives birth to this monstrous, sometimes cumbersome, difficult to approach performance. But Achim Freyer had something else in mind: not only does he want to objectify this Salome as a key to enigmatic femininity, he also treats Strauss's opera as an object. Because of this the all too agitated spectators – in acquiescence to consumption?"
translated by Hayley Glickfeld Bielman
7. April 2003
Staging, Set, Cosutmes
Andrea K. Schlehwein
Ute Walther / Jane Henschel