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Salomé (Mariotte)

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Title: Salomé (Mariotte)  
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Subject: Antoine Mariotte, Music based on the works of Oscar Wilde
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Salomé (Mariotte)

Salomé is an opera in one act by Antoine Mariotte to a libretto based on the French play Salome by Oscar Wilde.

Mariotte commenced composition of his opera before the far more famous treatment of the same source by German composer Richard Strauss (Salome), but his premiered after the Strauss work.[1]

Performance history

While serving in the French navy in the Far East in the late 1890s,[N 1] Mariotte read the Oscar Wilde play Salome, and decided to set it to music.

Mariotte completed the score of Salomé while professor of piano at the Conservatoire de Lyon, but without the necessary permission from Wilde's estate and publisher. In fact, having obtained the agreement to use the play, Richard Strauss asked his publisher Adolph Fürstner to acquire the rights, and a subsequent court case decided in favour of Fürstner. Mariotte then learnt that Fürstner would oppose the production of his own opera, and only after visiting Berlin to negotiate did he obtain permission to have it staged, and that on swingeing conditions: 40% royalties to go to Richard Strauss and 10% to Fürstner, with all musical materials to be sent after the run to Fürstner to be destroyed. French writer Romain Rolland, having read an article by Mariotte in the Revue internationale de musique, helped the composer to get a better settlement from Strauss.

Salomé was first performed on 30 October 1908 (three years after Strauss’s in Dresden) at the Grand Théâtre de Lyon, and staged in Paris in 1910 at the Gaîté-Lyrique, while Strauss’s opera was performed at the Opéra.

After having been performed at Nancy, Le Havre, Marseille, Geneva, and Prague, Salomé was seen at the Opéra on 1 July 1919 with Lucienne Bréval.

In November 2005 the Opéra National de Montpellier juxtaposed the Strauss and Mariotte operas.[3]

Musical style

Mariotte’s selection from the Wilde text was not the same as Strauss’s, and the musical style of the opera is significantly different. In comparison with the more famous Salome opera, Mariotte’s rich orchestral colours are sombre, and the drama unfolds in a sequence of tableaux. The characters are less extravagant and certainly less sexually charged; the dense, often contrapuntal sound-world has its roots in 19th century academicism. Mariotte uses an off-stage orchestra for the banquet in the opening scene while the final scene uses a wordless chorus to add an enigmatic glow to Salomé’s ode to Iokanaan’s head.[4]

A work rich in orchestral invention and emotional intensity, Salomé is in some respects rather more sympathetic to the original Symbolist mood. Wilde wrote the play in French, because he felt its poetic language belonged to fin de siècle sensibility. Mariotte’s version owes much to the sound world of Debussy and to the disengaged emotional landscape of Maeterlinck[3] (who had praised highly Wilde’s play).[2]


Role Voice type Premiere cast, 30 October 1908
(Conductor: –)
Hérode, Tetrarch of Judaea baritone Édouard Cotreuil
Hérodias, his wife (and niece) contralto Soïni
Salomé, his stepdaughter (and great-niece) soprano De Wailly
Iokanaan (John the Baptist) baritone Jean Aubert
Narraboth, Captain of the Guard tenor Henry Grillières
The page of Hérodias contralto
First soldier tenor
Second soldier baritone
Young Syrian (Narraboth) tenor
Royal guests (Egyptians and Romans), and entourage, servants, soldiers


The 2005 Montpellier production was issued by Accord in 2007, conducted by Friedemann Layer with Kate Aldrich in the title role.



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