Salome returns to the Erkel Theatre in authentic set

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Salome, one of the most famous operas by Richard Strauss is to be staged at by the Hungarian State Opera at the Erkel Theatre on 15 September 2020. The new production by Zoltán Rátóti starring Sera Gösch, Jürgen Sacher, Gyöngyi Lukács and Károly Szemerédy under the baton of Balázs Kocsár that can only be seen once due to the epidemic is a world premiere – in terms of its set.

Richard Strauss based his Biblically-themed 1893 opera Salome on Oscar Wilde’s play of the same title. Strauss’s reconception of this poetic – and scandalously erotic in its time – takes everything to the maximum extreme. With a superb dramatic sense, the composer made only very slight cuts and abridgements to the play, but otherwise left Wilde’s text untouched, thus creating a relentlessly paced and extraordinarily weighty music drama that was, at the same time, not devoid of sarcasm. Salome is an opera that can be tremendous success on any opera stage simply with its music. However, the new production of the Hungarian State Opera makes Strauss' opus even more memorable with a curiosity.

Archaeologists have been engaged in recovering the ruins of Machaerus, the palace of Herod Antipas for decades. According to the Bible, it was in this palace, on the eastern shore of the Dead Sea that John the Baptist was held prisoner, and it was here that Herod had him beheaded as a reward for the beautiful Salome's erotic dance of the seven veils. Győző Vörös, Hungarian historian of antiquity, architect and head of the Hungarian Academy of Arts research group has conducted excavations at Machaerus. His has documented his findings in a three-volume book published by Edizioni Terra Scanta in Milan. The excavations enabled Győző Vörös and architect Tamás Dobrosi to present a section of the original palace to the audience for the first time in the world. The architectural space encircled by a Doric colonnade is an open cross-section of Herod's royal palace and takes the stage in a compact form. The architectural area formed by the apsis of the royal throne is an important element of the visuals. The Doric columns and the cornice they support are used in a 1:1 scale for the set. The visual design is complemented by the costumes designed by Hajnal Tordai, an associate of the Hungarian State Opera for 55 years, a designer of costumes for over 500 theatre and opera productions-

Director of the production is Zoltán Rátóti has already appeared in spoken roles in some productions at the Hungarian State Opera. Salome is his first attempt at directing an opera for the institute. The title role is performed by young Turkish soprano, Sera Gösch, who sang the same role two years ago at the Margaret Island Open-Air Theatre in the Opera's production of Salome. The cast includes Jürgen Sacher as Herodes, Kammersänger of the Hamburg Staatsoper and recurring guest on Berlin, Milan and Salzburg stages, as well as Gyöngyi Lukács, a singer known to the audiences of La Scala, The Met and Covent Garden as Herodias, and Károly Szemerédy as Jochanaan, who is also a frequent guest on international stages. The premiere is conducted by Balázs Kocsár, general music director of the Hungarian State Opera.

Due to the epidemic situation, Salome can only be seen once this season at the Erkel Theatre, on 15 September 2020. However, the production was invited to the Janáček Brno 2020 international music and opera festival. The opera is on stage of the Janáček Theatre on 10 October 2020.

Photos by Valter Berecz

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