Female Sexual Identity and Characterization in Richard Strauss’s Salome
Citron, Marcia J.
Master of Music
This thesis examines the sexual development and characterization of the title character in Richard Strauss’s Salome (1905). It contends that Salome experiences a sexual evolution—a "maturing"—that Strauss derives from Oscar Wilde's play and further emphasizes through Salome's musical language and character development. Three structural phases in Salome's sexual development are proposed: a pre-pubescent phase, a phase of sexual awakening, and a phase of dangerous sexuality. The characterization of Salome is also explored through the lens of performance theory, in an examination of the film versions of Götz Friedrich (1974), Jürgen Flimm (2004), and David McVicar (2008). In addition, the thesis applies Wildean literature on aestheticism and spirituality to Strauss’s opera to show that Salome’s sexual transformation presents an alternative path to self-fulfillment apart from religious salvation. Strauss’s setting reveals a secular, or temporal, aestheticism that leads to an earthly spirituality.