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September 24, 2014

Jazz, comics, and dance treat temptress Salomé in radical new way

Production times

-8 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 8, in Kodak Hall at Eastman Theatre (admission is $10, or free for University faculty, students, and staff with valid ID)

-8 p.m. Friday, Oct. 10, in the Interfaith Chapel, River Campus (admission is free)

Unnamed New Testament seductress Salomé is the subject of an upcoming symposium and performances that will bring together scholars and musicians from the University and Eastman School. Funded by the Humanities Project, “The Veils of Salomé” will explore the Biblical character’s roles in religion, the arts, and gender over the centuries.

The production marries jazz and graphic-novel illustrations to create a surprising departure from the traditional, classical-music presentation of Richard Strauss’s opera Salomé.

This version of Salomé instead will be performed by Table Top Opera, a chamber ensemble of Eastman faculty, alumni, and friends. As the music plays, Salomé- inspired images by comic- book artist P. Craig Russell will be projected above the musicians as performers reveal a newly choreographed version of Salomé’s “Dance of the Seven Veils.”

“By combining opera with comic books and classical players with jazz musicians, these performances will let listeners experience the music in a radically different way,” says Matthew Brown, professor of music theory at the Eastman School. Brown is one of the producers of “The Veils of Salomé” project and founder of Table Top Opera. “With luck, our concert production will also encourage the audience to take another look at Salomé and other operas.”

In the New Testament, Salomé is not identified by name, but simply as the daughter of Herodias, the wife of King Herod. When the girl’s dance pleases the king, he promises her anything she wants. Prodded by her mother, the girl asks for the head of John the Baptist, who had condemned Herodias and Herod for their unlawful marriage.

The ancient Jewish historian Flavius Josephus also recounted the story, naming the young girl Shalome. Over the centuries, Salomé came to represent the dangers of the life of the flesh as opposed to John the Baptist’s life of the Holy Spirit, and was depicted as an alluring, lustful, and dangerous female.

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