The Saga of Sharlie & Jade II

That year, in 1978, I made two life-changing discoveries:

A recording of Strauss’ “Salome” with the Vienna Philharmonic under Herbert von Karajan; and J.R.R. Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings”. It was love – and a kind of obsession – at first listen/read.

Just to keep you in suspense as to why “Lord of the Rings” should have played a role in our “Salomé”, I’ll begin with the recording {: )

It was soprano Hildegard Behrens’ performance in the title role that totally blew me away. Her interpretation was described glowingly at the time as: “…electrifying…starting with the silvery lightness of a gracious adolescent, developing with terrifying intensity into her crazed obsession for the head of John the Baptist. The great final scene married luminous fulfillment with disturbing mania. Never in recent memory has any soprano fulfilled so many of the role’s impossible demands so vividly.” The kind of review every singer longs to hear. I was simply in awe.

Over and over again I listened to the recording, at the same time fascinated and horrified. This is one very dark story. Young girl becomes enamored of handsome prophet who curses her for her passion. Young girl dances to please the king and as payment demands the prophet’s head! Young girl has horrendous love scene with said severed head and is murdered because she is a ‘monster’ (says the king). Here, the very end of the opera with Frau Behrens as Salome, where she finally kisses the prophet’s mouth (“Ich habe deinen Mund gekuesst, Jochanaan…”) and is killed by Herod’s guards. Incomparable!

Breath-taking drama. But the more I listened, the stronger I felt that something was very wrong here; that the image of Salome had been distorted beyond all recognition – and that I wanted to do something about it! The only question was: What? What on earth could I do to change the fate of a mythical figure?

Cut to: Some twenty-odd years later. More soon…(patience, “Lord of the Rings” fans, we’re getting there!).