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• • • Being a journal by artist and designer John Coulthart, cataloguing interests, obsessions and passing enthusiasms.


 

Dalí’s Salomé

dalisalome.jpg

Queen Salomé (1937) by Salvador Dalí.

Of all the Surrealists, Salvador Dalí had his fingers in the most cultural pies—designing for film and theatre, writing books (including a novel, Hidden Faces), even performing occasionally, or at least making a public spectacle of himself—so it’s no surprise to find him adding to the stock of 20th-century Salomé interpretations, first in a drawing then for the stage. The stage work was something I hadn’t run across before (not since this current obsession began, anyway), a 1949 production of the Strauss opera at Covent Garden directed by Peter Brook. The now celebrated theatre director was at the outset of his career when he chose Dalí as his designer but the resultant furore shows that Brook’s ability to challenge an audience (or at least, a gaggle of theatre critics) had an early start. The critics savaged the production and the show closed after only six performances. Brook, who was sacked, had this to say:

The critics all decided that Dali and I were only out to annoy them. There, at least, I might claim that they underestimated us; if that have been our intention I think that between us we might have done much worse… (More)

Getty Images has some tantalising photos here, here and here, but I’ve not seen anything in the way of production sketches. The objections seem to have been the usual tiresomely English revulsion against anything too original, too strange or too imaginative (it’s no wonder Leonora Carrington abandoned Britain for Mexico). An article about the production from the BBC’s Music Magazine includes this detail:

In the last scene for Dali and Brooke, [Salomé] was slowly covered over by a sort of green ooze of bile that came from the head of John the Baptist, an effect of luxuriant disgust which we can imagine without too much difficulty, bearing in mind others of Dali’s images.

That piece also mentions a proposed restaging of the opera with Dalí’s designs but I’ve been unable to discover whether this took place. If anyone knows better, please leave a comment.

Elsewhere on { feuilleton }
The Salomé archive

 


 

Posted in {art}, {books}, {design}, {surrealism}, {theatre}.

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  1. #1 posted by Jason

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    Thank you for mentioning this production and posting links to the accompanying photographs, especially since it brings together one of my favourite operas with one of my favourite visual artists. I remember hearing about it many years ago, including the fabled green ooze (Jochanaan the Vulcan?), but I always had difficulty finding much in the way of visual representations. With Welitsch at her peak, it was probably quite the production.

 


 

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