Note: First published on Blogger on October 20, 2008
Unfolding the Map
Hello again. We are continuing the zoom with Sal Paradise back across the country to New Jersey. Today he goes through Salome, Arizona. Click the map to see our progress.
...Salome (where she danced); the great dry stretches leading to Mexican mountains in the south."
On the Road, Chapter 14
Before I met my wife, I had never been to nor seen an opera. Wasn't interested. But when we first lived in Texas, she signed us up for season tickets to the opera in Austin. Every month in the opera season we would make the hour and a half trip up to the opera, and watch something by Puccini, Verdi, Mozart, and other composers.
One opera that made a huge impact on me was Salome, by Richard Strauss. Some operas I could take, some I could leave, but this had me riveted. I found that I liked the tragic operas best. The comic ones were okay, but to me you needed a good tragedy in an opera. That's what all those booming voices were for. To weep, and cry and gnash their teeth and die tragic deaths from consumption or something.
I was raised Catholic, and Catholics don't know the Bible for anything. We are all in to community and common good, but I think the many centuries of priests translating the Bible for us and telling us that we will get our reward by coming to Church on Sunday, not eating meat on Friday, and giving to the collection plate means that, compared to fundamentalists and evangelicals, we know next to nothing about the Bible which serves as the basis of our faith. Evangelicals can quote the Bible. Catholics might be able to recognize the Bible in a stack of books. So, that long evocation was simply to let you know that I really did not know the story of Salome very well.
Well, along comes Strauss and his opera. And at the end, when Salome dances the Dance of the Seven Veils for Herod, and produces the bloody head of John the Baptist, well, that's when I really decided that opera was all right. There was just such a sexiness, yet horrifying aspect to it that I found myself thinking that I wouldn't really mind getting beheaded by a woman like that.
If you want to know more about Salome