Gar?on, the severed head please

The Lithuanian National Opera brings the sordid, if not disturbing, tale of Salome to Israel.

salome 248.88 (photo credit: AP)
salome 248.88
(photo credit: AP)
A biblical king's incestuous advances towards his niece are rejected in favor of a severed head - just before everyone dies. And it all occurs in one act. The Israeli Opera kicks off its 24th season with the raunchiest the New Testament has to offer. Salome returns to the local stage in grand style with the Lithuanian National Opera's production of Richard Strauss's opera. Directed by David Alden, who is among the premier directors of today, Salome is one of three important modern operas on offer this season, the other two are A Journey to the End of the Millennium by Josef Bardanashvili and The Cunning Little Vixen by Leo Janáek. Strauss translated Oscar Wilde's version of the story. After all, who better than the English satirist to pinpoint the absurdity in this wholesome tale? This provocative story has been an inspiration in the arts for millennia. Now Alden adds his own twist by placing the ancient story in a modern Teutonic setting. The performance is accompanied by the Orchestra of the Lithuanian National Opera, founded in Vilna in 1920, and conducted by Jacek Kaspszyk. The region, however, has been enjoying opera since the 18th century. The Vilna Opera House is considered among the finest in the world, along with the New York Metropolitan Opera and the English National Opera. Salome was first performed in Dresden in 1905 to a very successful reception. It was Strauss's third opera at the tender age of 31, composing the music and using Wilde's words in translation. The story of Salome is timeless, as indicated by the variety of arts that depict it range from opera to painting. In Israel, the opera was first performed on May 31, 1998 and it seems Israelis simply cannot get enough. The story takes place at a banquet of Herodian decadence shortly after the founding of Tiberias. The party happens to be right next to the prison of John the Baptist, arguably the all-time biggest fan of the mikve. Salome steps out for a breath of fresh air and finds herself instantly smitten with the prisoner. And, where the alluring Salome goes, the party follows. As she deals with John's rejection, her amorous and intoxicated uncle rocks his best moves in front of her mother, who is also his wife. He offers Salome anything she wishes, even half his kingdom, for just one dance. With a mischievous grin she agrees and at the conclusion of her performance, demands nothing other than the sweet, sweet head of John the Baptist on a silver platter. Once her wish has been delivered, she happily sings, "the mystery of love is greater than the mystery of death" - while indulging in necrophilia that only the Bible could conjure. An hour prior to each show, the opera house hosts a lecture with the cast and musicians for NIS 70. For true opera connoisseurs, this opportunity to herald the new season of Israeli opera is nothing less than a head on a silver platter. Salome is performed through November 26 at the Israeli Opera Tel Aviv-Yafo. For show times and ticket information call (03) 692-7777 or visit