Salome - Synopsis

Salome - Synopsis

On a moonlit terrace in Herod’s palace in Judea, Narraboth, captain of the guard, rhapsodizes over the beauty of princess Salome. A page warns him that he is staring too intently at the princess and that evil will come of it. The voice of the prophet Jokanaan (John the Baptist) is heard coming from an old cistern, where the holy man has been kept prisoner by Herod. He prophesies the coming of the Messiah, and the soldiers argue about him, disputing his saintliness. They are interrupted by the appearance of princess Salome, who, disgusted with her stepfather Herod’s lecherous glances at her, has left the banquet hall and come out onto the terrace. Jokanaan’s voice rings out through the night, and Salome, fascinated, decides she must speak with him. She orders the soldiers to bring the prisoner to her. When they say that they cannot disobey Herod’s orders, she coaxes Narraboth into agreeing.

Jokanaan is presented to Salome. Instead of being disgusted by him, Salome is attracted to his voice, his deathly pallor and ascetic looks. He tells her to repent. She says she must touch the prophet’s ghastly white flesh, feel his shining black hair, kiss his scarlet lips. Jokanaan denounces her, but Salome’s desire for him becomes uncontrollable. Narraboth, frightened by the confrontation that he has enabled, stabs himself and dies, as Salome continues to beg Jokanaan to be allowed to kiss him. “Daughter of adultery” the prophet shrieks, “go seek repentance!” Salome repeats her demands. Jokanaan pronounces her cursed and returns to the cistern.

Herod enters - followed by his guests - looking for Salome, obsessed by her. Herodias, his wife, jealously accuses Herod of ogling at her daughter. Herod offers the princess food and wine, but she rejects him. Jokanaan’s admonitions again arise from the cistern, and Herodias asks Herod to get rid of him, to turn him over to the Hebrews. Herod refuses, stating that Jokanaan is a holy man. At this, a theological argument breaks out among the Hebrew guests about the presence of good and evil in the world. Two Nazarenes then report the miracles of Jesus, claiming that the Messiah has arrived. Jokanaan again curses the wickedness of Herodias, who screams for him to be silenced.

Herod suddenly asks Salome to dance. Supported by her mother, Salome refuses. Not until Herod promises - swears - to give her whatever she may desire, does Salome agree. Ignoring her mother’s pleas, Salome performs the Dance of the Seven Veils, which ends with her taking her clothes off at Herod’s feet.

Herod now asks her to state her request. She says, she wants the head of Jokanaan on a silver platter. Herod is horrified, but Herodias approves, thinking Salome has done this to avenge her. Herod offers Salome precious jewels, rare white peacocks - anything - to dissuade her, but Salome is adamant. Finally, Herod agrees.

Eagerly, Salome hangs over the edge of the cistern, anticipating the sounds of the execution. No sounds come. Just as she is about to send more soldiers down, the arm of the Executioner rises up out of the darkness bearing the head of Jokanaan. Salome grabs her reward and passionately sings to Jokanaan as though he could still hear her. “The mystery of love,” she sings, “is greater than the mystery of death.” Salome ecstatically kisses the severed head. Herod orders her to be killed. The soldiers crush her beneath their shields.