SYMBOLISM, DECADENCE, AND SEXUALITY IN STRAUSS’S MUSICAL RENDERING OF WILDE’S SALOME

Open Access
Author:
Gupta, Himani
Area of Honors:
Music
Degree:
Bachelor of Music
Document Type:
Thesis
Thesis Supervisors:
  • Charles Dowell Youmans, Thesis Supervisor
  • Taylor Aitken Greer, Faculty Reader
  • Charles Dowell Youmans, Honors Advisor
Keywords:
  • Richard Strauss
  • Oscar Wilde
  • Salome
Abstract:
In 1901, a decade after Oscar Wilde began writing Salome, Anton Lindner sent Richard Strauss a copy of the completed play, and Strauss, so thrilled by what he found there, began sketching what would become one of his most celebrated and most controversial operas. Fully appreciating the dramatic force of Strauss’s work requires relating the musical setting to the aesthetic principles that inspired Wilde’s work. Three themes recur in the body of literary criticism on the play: its relationship to the French Symbolist style, its place in the Decadent Movement, and its complex representation of sexuality. Yet while Wilde scholars have considered these themes exhaustively, Strauss scholars have only hinted at them, despite the wide-ranging research on the opera. In this thesis, I combine the analytical approaches of scholars in the music field with interpretations by literary critics to reveal Strauss’s sensitivity to the nuances of Wilde’s drama. Ultimately, this project seeks to advance our understanding of what remains Strauss’s best-known and most influential work, by considering issues that, for all their relevance to the play, have yet to be dealt with in studies of the opera.