…a veil over Salome
The DC opera season has started. Washington National Opera began with the lyric gallows swing of Verdi’s Un ballo in maschera, and is now tilting into the eroticism of Strauss’s Salome –an uncanny offering to my mind, reflecting the present zeitgeist, as plattered heads seem the political metaphor of choice these days.
Things were equally cut throat for Richard Strauss; the opera’s premiere was met with outrage and hyperbole; venom and swoon in equal measure. With Salome, Strauss seared his audience from inside out.
The opera remains one of the most graphic, aural spectaculars ever written; the strings winnow and scream in a sinuous wallow of voluptuous resonance; the writing for bass sculpts both cistern and temptation, and etches the moral murk in which John the Baptist hulks, enchained. It is a compelling and unrelenting work, ravishing in its atonality and instrumentation.
…needless to say, much too contentious for elementary school students, so we won’t be using it as our opera showpiece for this year’s “Opera Look-In”, part of the Washington National Opera/DC Public Schools program.
Instead we’re putting together a presentation that creates something of a ‘library stroll’ through a diversity of operatic scenes; the vignettes offer music by Bizet, Mozart, Rossini, Puccini, and Donizetti, and are presented by students from the Duke Ellington School for the Arts, as well as members of the Domingo-Cafritz Young Artist Program. Maureen Bunyan will be the compère for the event, which will be given in the opera house at the Kennedy Center next week.
This is my third year as a Guest ‘Teaching Artist’ representing the opera company. I will be working in three different elementary schools this time, located in wards in the SE, NW and NE of the District.
There is a pre-‘Look-In’ visit this week, as orientation for the students; we go on to follow up the “Look-In” with a session to glean what moved the students, and to identify what kinds of threads they would like to pull together in creating their own opera, which is then presented in May of next year.
The students are always so direct and honest in their observations and connections; with the array of musical offerings they’ll encounter at the Kennedy Center presentation, I’ve no doubt this year’s schools’ programs will be diverse and imaginative-
..leaving the tour de force of Salome, for later fodder..