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Music with Ease > 19th Century French Opera > Hérodiade - Massenet

(English title: Herodias)
An Opera by Jules Massenet

Massenet’s "Herodiade," with a libretto by Paul Milliet, had its first performance in New York at the Manhattan Opera House, November, 1908, with Lina Cavalieri, Jeanne Gerville-Reache, Charles Dalmores, and Maurice Renaud in the principal roles. The scene is Jerusalem and the first act shows Herod’s palace. Salome does not know that she is the daughter of Herodias, for she was mysteriously separated from her mother in childhood. With a caravan of Jewish merchants, who bring gifts to Herod, she comes to Jerusalem in search of her mother. She tells Phanuel, a young philosopher, that she wishes to return to the Prophet who had been kind to her in the desert.

As she leaves Herod enters, notices her, and is aroused by her beauty. He calls upon her to return. But instead Herodias enters demanding John’s head for he has publicly called her Jezebel. Herod refuses. John appears and continues his denunciation. The royal couple flee. Salome returns and falls at John’s feet confessing her love.

Herod in vain seeks to put the thought of Salome from him. Herodias, mad with jealousy, consults the astrologer Phanuel who tells her that her daughter is her rival.

In the temple Herod offers his love to Salome, who repulses him crying: "I love another who is mightier than Caesar, stronger than any hero." In his fury Herod orders both Salome and John, who has been seized and put in chains, delivered into the hands of the executioner. John in his dungeon clasps Salome in his arms.

In the last scene Salome implores Herodias to save John, but the executioner’s sword is already bloodstained. Salome snatches a dagger and rushes upon Herodias who cries in terror "Have mercy. I am your mother." "Then take back your blood and my life," cries Salome, turning the weapon upon herself.

Feedback from Website Visitor:

"I would like to point out a mistake made in the article about Hérodiade, Jules Massenet. This opera did not make its first performance in New York, but already in 1882 in the Royal Opera House of Brussels (Belgium). In 1901 it made its entrance in Paris, and then in New York."

-- Alexander Ponet

Thank you, Mr. Ponet. According to The New Grove Dictionary of Opera, the first performance actually occurred a little earlier (19 December 1881) in the Théâtre de la Monnaie, Brussels.

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Middle Ages Music
Renaissance Music
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Romantic Era Music
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Turn of Century Music

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