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Kicked out of the (opera) house
April 22, 2004 3:54 PM   Subscribe

Although the current 2003-04 season of New York City's Metropolitan Opera is winding down, there were two provocative additions to the existing repertoire. Previously banned and restricted from the New York stage (as well as other opera houses throughout the world), the MET offered new productions of La Juive and Salome:

Last performed during the 1935-36 season, the MET reprised Jacques Fromental Halévy's 1835 opera La Juive (The Jewess) after a 68-year absence. Set in 15th-century Constance, the story concerns a Jewish jeweler and his daughter's forbidden romance with a Christian Emperor’s son. The implications of the libretto assert religious intolerance, betrayal, and persecution of Jews, where anti-semitism is the motivating force. Conflicting theories debate whether it was pulled in the 1930's to quell the conflagration of anti-semitism, or if trends were merely shifting away from French opera.

Also reprised was Salome, Richard Strauss's 1905 opera based on Oscar Wilde's 1891 play of the same name. During the performance, Salome performs the highly erotic Dance of the Seven Veils for her stepfather Herod, striping completely naked, and then molesting the severed head of St. John. During the 1907 premier at the MET, the production was so scandalous, that it was cancelled after the first performance. It was then permanently banned until 1934, and has only been reprised four times in past 70 years. The new production continues to reflect on past debates, flagging the licentious strip tease and immoral relationship between Herod and teenaged Salome.
posted by naxosaxur (17 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
Opera? Yawn.
posted by fenriq at 4:36 PM on April 22, 2004


There's too much sex and violence in opera. Won't someone think of the children?

[good post]
posted by ColdChef at 4:57 PM on April 22, 2004


Heh. From the link above:

"Question: Dear Diva,

Have you ever performed on stage au naturel? How do you, or singers in general, feel about singing in the nude? Is a nude scene in any way more difficult than any other type of scene? Inquiring minds want to know!

Diva: Dear Chihuahua,

You know, I'm VERY jealous of Karita Mattila. Not because she's gorgeous, has a fabulous voice and can act. But here she is, performing Salome at the Met. And as far as I can tell, she's the first Met Salome to have the courage -- and be allowed -- to go the full monty in her dance of the seven veils. When I sang Salome at the Met, they wouldn't let me get past the fourth veil! (It's a little like the line in that Cole Porter song: "When I danced for Minsky, they hollared "Put it on!")

No, dear, I've never done a nude scene. Most opera singers aren't expected to reveal what's underneath all the upholstery that passes for opera costumes, and thank goodness. It's hard enough to sing most of these roles and keep your leading man on pitch without also having to worry about the audience focusing their opera glasses on your cellulite."
posted by ColdChef at 4:59 PM on April 22, 2004


What a jerky comment, fenriq.

Nice stuff, naxo, although I think it's a little tabloidish to talk about "banning," especially with regard to La juive. (Also, "permanently banned until 1934" doesn't make much sense if you think about it.) But there's lots of meaty, interesting material, and opera is something we don't get enough of on the blue.

Um, next time you might want to consider "More inside," though...
posted by languagehat at 5:01 PM on April 22, 2004


A lovely, rich post to browse through. Thank you, naxosaxur.
posted by stonerose at 5:39 PM on April 22, 2004


Bring me the head of Richard Strauss.
posted by alumshubby at 6:07 PM on April 22, 2004


fenriq: Clearly not a supporter of the arts...
posted by naxosaxur at 7:18 AM on April 23, 2004


Salome performs the highly erotic Dance of the Seven Veils for her stepfather Herod, striping completely naked, and then molesting the severed head of St. John

I saw that in Times Square for a quarter.
posted by jonmc at 7:40 AM on April 23, 2004


jonmc, come on. You know perfectly well the severed-head molesting shows were fifty cents.

Nice first post, naxosaur, but puh-leeze don't do this again.
posted by soyjoy at 7:51 AM on April 23, 2004


No, clearly not a supporter of the operatic arts. Hey Languagehat, you don't mean to insinuate that I'm not allowed to hold my own opinion, are you?

Opera bores me to tears. Just like some people hate rap or jazz or country.
posted by fenriq at 8:28 AM on April 23, 2004




It seems like a bit of a stretch. Perhaps she's the only one with the pipes for it, but I always pictured solome as more brittney and less tammy fay. I know, I know, willing suspension of disbelief and all that.

In my experience the NJ Opera has hotter chicks. And everyone knows that's what opera is all about.
posted by milovoo at 8:49 AM on April 23, 2004


languagehat & soyjoy: many thanks...

::puts advice into pipe:: *smoke smoke*
posted by naxosaxur at 9:22 AM on April 23, 2004


I always pictured solome as more brittney and less tammy fay.

The problem is that the quasi-Wagnerian style of singing that Strauss was writing could almost never be mastered by anyone as young as Britney (and by that I mean, even Britney's age now). But back then people didn't have DVDs and 1024 x 768 - resolution monitors to surf the Web, so suspension of belief was a little bit easier.
posted by soyjoy at 9:49 AM on April 23, 2004


Nice post.

I think that theatre in general has been forced to cast older actors in younger roles. This is a bit to the determent of how we see those roles. Olivier, Branagh and Gibson were arguably too old to play Hamlet as the returning student. A chunk of Matthew Broderick's stage success was due to the fact that he looked young for his age.

But yes, Opera is extremely demanding. I've read interviews with singers who expressed the desire to just once let their hair down and do jaz or pop but are concerned about whether it will break their performance.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 10:30 AM on April 23, 2004


The problem is that the quasi-Wagnerian style of singing that Strauss was writing could almost never be mastered by anyone as young as Britney ...

Agreed. (I find that in most performances that I have read beforehand the actors don't match my ideas of character anyway, even when the age is right)

I might actually go see it, and with the current budget I suspect that from where I'll be sitting it won't matter much.

randomly related - the dance of the seven veils always reminds me of Tom Robbins' Skinny Legs and All.
(Ok, well, probably because it's a big part of the plot)
posted by milovoo at 11:02 AM on April 23, 2004


I'm just thankful that Deborah Voight didn't have a crack at performing Salome this season.
posted by naxosaxur at 12:12 PM on April 23, 2004


Hey Languagehat, you don't mean to insinuate that I'm not allowed to hold my own opinion, are you?

Absolutely not. I'm as big a supporter of free speech as you'll find around here. In this wonderful country, you're free to go up to a guy who's just gotten engaged and tell him his fiancee is so ugly you wouldn't touch her with a ten-foot pole, or to dive into a thread started by an opera lover just so you can make the pointless comment "Opera? Yawn." But having freedom of speech isn't incompatible with being a jerk.
posted by languagehat at 4:52 PM on April 23, 2004


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