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Abstract Massenet’s Hérodiade (1881) is today one of the lesser-known variations of the Salomé myth. Although based on Flaubert’s Hérodias (1877) and written and premiered at the height of the narrative’s popularity, the opera displays some peculiar deviations from both Flaubert’s tale and other, especially fin-de-siècle, renderings of the myth. By situating Hérodiade’s departures from Flaubert’s short story within both the framework of operatic conventions and the broader context of the opera’s genesis, this article highlights Hérodiade’s status as a self-contained rendering, rather than a mere dramatic rewriting of the story—let alone an unfaithful adaptation. In doing so, three main elements that played an essential role in the process of (re)creation are brought to attention: the conventions of grand opera, Massenet’s own aesthetics and interpretation of the tale, and the impact of the socio-political context of France’s Third Republic on the opera’s development. Flaubert, Massenet, Hérodias, Hérodiade, opera, short story Few narratives have had such an impact on cultural history as the biblical tale of Salomé and the beheading of John the Baptist. Although the story stems from the beginning of our era, its main features—seduction and manipulation, political gain, and the cruel death of a righteous man—are universal topics which remain key elements in many modern-day narratives. It is therefore not surprising that this biblical tale has always been a popular subject in the arts. Today’s image of Salomé as the oriental femme fatale par excellence has its origin in painted works such as Henri Regnault’s Salomé (1870), Gustave Moreau’s Salomé dansant devant Hérode (1876), and L’Apparition (1876), all displayed at the annual Salon de peinture et de sculpture in Paris (Décaudin). Before these paintings, however, the Salomé myth already began to figure in mid-nineteenth century literary works, such as Heinrich Heine’s Atta Troll (1843), a long allegorical poem depicting Hérodias toying with the head of John the Baptist, and Théodore de Banville’s poem Hérodias (1856, dated 1854), which was in turn dedicated to Heine’s Atta Troll. Other French renderings were soon to follow, but it was only after the publication of Gustave Flaubert’s Hérodias (1877) that the myth really proliferated in the literary world (Ogane 2010). Influenced by symbolist and decadent literature, such as Stéphane Mallarmé’s unfinished poem Les noces d’Hérodiade (1864–67), Jules Laforgue’s prose story Salomé (1887), and Joris-Karl Huysmans’s À rebours (1884)—which muses on Moreau’s aforementioned paintings—the biblical tale eventually gained importance in lyrical and (musico-)dramatic arts of the late nineteenth century. A well-known example is Oscar Wilde’s play Salomé (1891), strongly influenced by, among others, Mallarmé and Laforgue, and adapted to the operatic stage by Richard Strauss in 1905. At the end of the century, these different variations of the biblical tale formed a clear ‘web of mutual influence’ (Huebner 40) and contributed to the creation of a full-fledged fin-de-siècle myth. This article sheds light on one of today’s lesser-known variations of the biblical tale, Jules Massenet’s Hérodiade (1881). Although the opera was written and premiered during the heyday of the Salomé myth, it has rarely been acknowledged as an integral part of this so-called web of mutual influence. This is all the more remarkable as the libretto for Hérodiade—originally written by the Italian poet Angelo Zanardini and afterwards translated and reworked in French by Paul Milliet and Henri Grémont1—is largely based on Flaubert’s short story Hérodias, an influential rendition of the Salomé myth. This raises the question as to precisely why Hérodiade was arguably excluded from this complex of mutual influence, making it a lesser known rendering still today. A first look at Flaubert’s Hérodias and Massenet’s Hérodiade shows a multitude of differences between the two works. In adapting the story, both Massenet and the librettists2 took great liberties, in regard to both the plot and the characters. However, as Hutcheon explains, this is not exceptional as every adaptation process always entails a process of (re)interpretation and (re)creation. Moreover, a number of differences between the two versions are mainly due to the transition in medium, from a prose text to a lyrical drama. The surprisingly large number of divergences, as well as their far-reaching character, however, suggests that not all those interventions were strictly necessary in order to transform the tale from page to stage. In order to understand Hérodiade’s relationship to Flaubert’s Hérodias, as well as to other fin-de-siècle renderings of the tale, it is necessary to look beyond the impact of medium and genre, and also take other factors into account. Each work has often been analysed separately, but a comprehensive study of the adaptation from short story to opera has not yet been undertaken. The operatic studies that also elaborate on Flaubert’s Hérodias are either far from comprehensive, as they are limited to the most striking differences in the main storylines (such as Brèque and Hollard), or they are largely focused on either the libretto or the music, thus isolating important but not all-encompassing facets of the opera (see Rowden 2001, 2006; Huebner). What is more, these approaches are generally reduced to pinpointing differences and similarities as an end in itself, without assessing their influence on the opera as a whole. In order to gain a better understanding of Massenet’s opera, therefore—not only as an adaptation and a work in its own right, but also in relation to other Salomé renderings—it is not sufficient to simply compare Hérodias to Hérodiade as a ‘finished product’. The current article, therefore, presents a different type approach. As this study mainly departs from a literary study of the libretto and the short story, Hérodiade’s dramatic and musical aspects,3 as well as its genesis—and even the broader socio-political context—are considered as a way to illustrate the opera’s status as a self-contained rendering of the Salomé myth. Three main elements that directed Hérodiade’s process of recreation will be highlighted: the conventions of grand opera, Massenet’s aesthetics and vision, and the influence of the socio-political context of the French Third Republic. In this way, this article will illustrate how Massenet’s Hérodiade is not simply the result of a dramatic rewriting of Flaubert’s short story—let alone an unfaithful one—but a highly idiosyncratic treatment of the Salomé myth that exhibits just as much creativity and originality as the original story. FROM SHORT STORY TO OPERA: BETWEEN CREATION AND CONVENTION Given the widespread fascination during the second half of the nineteenth century with the story of the Baptist’s beheading, the creation of an opera on this subject is not surprising. Neither is the choice to base Hérodiade’s plot on a prose work, as this was a common practice for opera libretti: opera was (and still is) a costly art form, and by adapting works that the audience already knew and liked, opera houses were hoping to secure revenue (Hutcheon and Hutcheon 2017). Therefore, it is likely that a highly popular fin-de-siècle topic—even a controversial one such as Salomé’s narrative—in the form of a literary text by a renowned author like Flaubert, was considered a guarantee for success. However, although a large number of libretti are based on literary works, their adaptation to the lyrical stage is not without risk. As operatic translations mediate between two art-forms, there is always the difficulty of finding the right balance: librettists try to stay close enough to the literary text to be recognizable, yet without following it too slavishly (Schmidgall). Furthermore, not every text lends itself to the operatic stage. Literary works that revolve around the power of the language used, often referred to as ‘theatre of words’ (Schmidgall 14), are generally quite hard to adapt to the lyrical stage since opera benefits from a ‘theatre of action, emotion, engagement, movement, spectacle’ (Schmidgall 14). By the same token, literary works with outspoken philosophical, aesthetic, or conceptual content are often hard to adapt as the elements central to opera—character, conflict, and dramatic situations—are usually reduced to a minimum in such texts. This is why librettists tend to move away from complex discursive passages in favour of psychological or physical action (Schmidgall). Finally, as singing takes more time than speaking—or reading, for that matter—librettists must allow enough room for the music and are therefore often forced to cut the plot; an intervention that often results in an impoverishment of the narrative material. In order to overcome these difficulties, finding a suitable source text is an essential first step towards a successful operatic translation. Throughout history, the taste in adaptive material has evolved considerably. In opera’s early days, over four hundred years ago, composers and librettists turned to classical myths and tragedies in their search for narrative material. With the rise of a literate middle class in the eighteenth century, literary romances and popular novels were adapted for the operatic stage, followed by melodramas and stage plays. By the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the range of adaptive material was broadened even more with the addition of such genres as dramatic poems and accounts of historical events (Hutcheon and Hutcheon 2017). By the end of the nineteenth century, short stories too were increasingly used as the basis for operas—think of Offenbach’s The Tales of Hoffmann (1881), based on three short stories by E. T. A. Hoffmann, Tchaikovsky’s The Queen of Spades (1890), set to Aleksandr Pushkin’s homonymous short story (1834), or Puccini’s Madama Butterfly (1904), inspired by John Luther Long’s Madame Butterfly (1898), to name but a few. The increasing use of short stories as the basis for operas makes sense as this literary genre is generally quite amenable to being transformed into opera; this is mainly due to its brevity. The brevity typical of short stories is intended to create a dense and compact tale by organizing the telling directly around the denouement, whereas the brevity of an opera libretto is induced by the simple fact that (sung) words are but one of the operatic means of telling a story, next to music, drama, and staging. In order to provide enough room for these non-verbal operatic elements, the ideal source text for an opera libretto thus consists of a limited amount of narrative material. In this vein, Flaubert’s Hérodias was also adapted to an opera. Apart from the renown of Flaubert and the highly popular topic his story addresses, also from an opera-technical point of view this story appears to be a sound choice: with its ‘dramatically strong subject, yet not too rich in material’ (Brèque 121), Hérodias proves to be perfect for the (lyrical) stage, in particular because the story stays neatly within the Aristotelian concept of unity of action, place and time. Flaubert based his story on the biblical episode first mentioned in the New Testament, more specifically in the gospels of Matthew and Mark. Hérodias is told mainly from the perspective of the Galilean tetrarch Hérode Antipas and covers one day in his life from dawn to dawn, the twenty-four hours leading up to the beheading of the prophet Iaokanann (John the Baptist). The story tells how Iaokanann provoked the wrath of Antipas and Hérodias by publicly condemning their marriage, for Hérodias is the former wife of Antipas’s brother. Since Antipas is reluctant to kill the prophet, Hérodias develops a plan to seek vengeance against Iaokanann. She instructs her daughter Salomé to seduce Antipas during a great feast for his birthday and ask him for the prophet’s head, a task which Salomé successfully achieves by performing an enchanting dance. Massenet’s opera retained most characters (albeit under a different name, as ‘Antipas’ is referred to as ‘Hérode’, ‘Hérodias’ is now ‘Hérodiade’, and ‘Iaokanann’ is ‘Jean’)4 as well as the basic plot: the prophet Jean condemns the marriage of Hérode and Hérodiade, causing the latter to seek vengeance against Jean. The opera’s secondary storylines, however, take the tale into a new direction. Hérodiade’s most striking innovation is a romantic triangle between the Baptist, Salomé, and Hérode, and, unlike most versions of the myth, Massenet’s Salomé is unaware of her mother’s true identity until it is revealed to her near the end of the opera, causing her to commit suicide. These interventions not only take the narrative and its characters in a completely different direction, but they also render the narrative more dramatic and add suspense. Apart from Hérodias’s brevity, its characters are also very suitable for the operatic stage. Firstly, all leading operatic roles are provided for by the story as there are four main characters that perfectly fit into the romantic dramaturgy of the voices: Hérode, Hérodiade, Jean, and Salomé. Although Salomé’s appearance is very limited in Flaubert’s story, her role is crucial to the development of the story, which is why she can equally be seen as a main character. Moreover, these characters present a perfect balance in age and gender. There is a young duo, Jean and Salomé, represented by lighter voices (in this case, a tenor and a soprano, respectively) who usually represent pure-hearted heroes; although this might not entirely be the case for Flaubert’s Salomé, it certainly is for Massenet’s heroine; more on this below. The older duo, Hérode and Hérodiade, is represented by deeper voices (in the case of this opera, a mezzo and a baritone, respectively) that are generally authoritative and often also malignant figures. Secondly, a number of Flaubert’s minor characters, such as Phanuel and Vitellius, are retained and support the opera’s secondary storylines. These leading voices and secondary characters allow for multiple interrelations, expressed in various ensembles, such as the duets between Salomé and Jean, Salomé and Hérode, and Hérodiade and Phanuel, the trio among Hérodiade, Jean, and Hérode, and the quartet featuring Hérodiade, Hérode, Vitellius, and Phanuel. Finally, Flaubert’s story involves larger, anonymous groups that are perfect for choral pieces, such as those in the opera’s opening and closing scenes. Therefore, Flaubert’s Hérodias provides a highly suitable framework for operatic adaptation. It is obvious that the transition from Hérodias to Hérodiade also presents difficulties, engendered by differences in medium. The most evident medium-related difference between a prose text and an opera is the presence or absence of a narrator. With the exception of direct speech, a prose story is told by a narrator, hence Hutcheon’s term ‘telling mode’ (2013: 22–23). Stimulating the imagination, the narrator invites readers into a fictional world and guides them with descriptions and references in the text. Opera, however, does not have a clearly defined narrator, and any information which cannot be shared by direct speech is passed on to the audience through music, gestures, and staging, which Hutcheon refers to as ‘showing mode’ (2013: 22–23). In opera, music is a narratological component that is just as important as the verbal text and can take two forms: ‘phenomenal music’ which the characters themselves also perceive as music (think of music played at a ball or songs they sing) and ‘noumenal music’, representing the inner world of the dramatis personae as well as their surroundings, such as thunder or gunshots. A calibrated means to represent this inner world is the aria: everything on stage seems to freeze and the audience overhears a character in a moment of reflection (Abbate). Thanks to such noumenal music, the audience has access to an additional level of meaning, which compensates for the lack of a narrator in opera (Taruskin). Although there is not an actual narrator in Hérodiade, one character nevertheless facilitates the audience’s access to the additional level of meaning of noumenal music. Phanuel, a character invented by Flaubert who plays only a minor role in the short story, is of crucial importance to the opera’s storyline in the role of confidant, as Salomé, Hérodiade, and Antipas all open up to him. As such, he is an indispensable element in the opera’s development, since he allows the three adversary camps to reveal their intimate thoughts and emotions by means of their arias. But there is another reason why Phanuel’s character gains importance in the adaptation. Through his ability to read the stars, Phanuel draws attention to the opera’s two enigmas: the hidden filiation between Salomé and Hérodiade and the question of whether or not the Baptist has a divine nature, as will be discussed more fully below. In other words, Phanuel not only reveals the other characters’ thoughts and emotions, but also unveils the secrets that are outside their knowledge. Flaubert’s minor character is thus elevated to a character of great dramaturgic utility who is able to clarify to the audience what remains otherwise untold by the main characters. SALOMÉ: FROM ‘SHADOW FORCE’ TO OPERATIC HEROINE The opera’s first enigma, the hidden kinship between Hérodiade and Salomé, is crucial to the portrayal of Salomé in Hérodiade. In both the short story and the opera, Salomé makes her appearance at the very beginning, albeit in a different manner in each version. Flaubert gives but a quick glimpse of the girl in the opening scene of his story, only to reveal her name at the very end. Between those two moments, Salomé plays no part at all. Massenet’s heroine, on the other hand, takes up a much more prominent role in the narrative and is identified as Salomé as soon as she first appears on stage. In turn, there is the mystery of Salomé’s bloodline, as highlighted by Phanuel: ‘Ah! Salomé!... What destiny brings you to this palace? Does she still not know from what blood she has sprung?’ (Milliet, Grémont, and Zanardini: Act I).5 At this point, Salomé is still unaware of the truth, as she has come to Antipas’s palace hoping to find her mother: ‘Phanuel, I ceaselessly search for my mother! A voice cried out to me: “Hope, run to Jerusalem!” Alas, I have not found her! And I remain here alone’ (M: I). Salomé remains separated from her mother for most of the opera, a modification in the storyline that significantly affects her character. In both the bible story and Flaubert’s tale, Salomé functions as a sort of ‘shadow force’ (Knapp 179) of Hérodias, being but an instrument subject to her mother’s will, rather than a genuine protagonist who has her own distinct personality.6 In Massenet’s Hérodiade, therefore, Salomé’s detachment from her mother allows her to become a flesh-and-blood character who acts on her own account, as befits an operatic heroine. Hérodiade, in turn, discovers Salomé’s identity already in Act III. Turning to Phanuel to seek revenge on the girl her husband has fallen in love with, Hérodiade discovers that the stars reveal a connection with her love rival: ‘Your stars are like a twin soul with the same life and the same clarity! Fate separates you, but love calls you!’ (M: III, 1). But Phanuel also foresees calamity: ‘The horizon becomes threatening; I see the star disappear, you remain alone!… Oh!... nothing but blood! Nothing but blood covers your star!’ (M: III, 1), an exclamation which Hérodiade interprets as a sign of her imminent vengeance: ‘Blood! I am avenged!’ (M: III, 1). Unfortunately for Hérodiade, the situation is not that straightforward: the seer reminds her that she is a mother, and at first, she mourns being separated from her daughter. At this point, Hérodiade does not yet make the connection between her love rival and her long lost daughter. Phanuel soothes Hérodiade by saying that she will see her daughter again, a prediction that comes true sooner than expected when all of a sudden Salomé passes by. Hérodiade, however, recognizing the girl not only as her daughter but also as her love rival, declares that her daughter is dead to her and that she no longer has a child, a statement that turns out to be a harbinger of Salomé’s suicide at the end of the opera. The blood covering Hérodiade’s star is indeed the blood of her rival, but at the same time, it refers to the death of her own daughter. The troubled relationship between the two women is also expressed in the music. When Hérodiade denies the kinship between her and her daughter, Phanuel replies that she is ‘but a woman; a mother, never!’ (M: III, 2). The link between the two women is musically broken by means of an ‘ominous forte-piano timpani roll and an accentuated minor ninth chord on the strings’ when Phanuel spits out the word ‘woman’ (Rowden 2001: 129). This chromatic, extended chord was commonly used in nineteenth-century opera to indicate evil and can be read as a reference to Hérodiade’s diabolic sexuality that prevails over her maternal feelings (Rowden 2001). It is only at the very end of the opera that Hérodiade will reveal the truth to Salomé, but not out of maternal love. Salomé vainly implores Hérodiade to pardon Jean, who has been sentenced to death. On seeing the executioner with a blood-stained sword, Salomé accuses Hérodiade of Jean’s death and pulls a dagger from her belt. Only then does Hérodiade unveil her true identity to Salomé: ‘Have mercy! I am your mother!’ (M: IV, 2). Although Hérodiade declares remorse, it is more likely that she just wants to save herself. On learning this upsetting news, Salomé indeed changes her mind: out of love for Jean and out of hatred for Hérodiade, she commits suicide. Salomé’s dramatic death is the climax of the opera’s two additional storylines, concluding both her romance with Jean and the narrative of the hidden kinship with Hérodiade. This culmination into an on-stage death is not unusual, given that death is the operatic topic par excellence, especially considering the concept of ‘romantic death’ (Hutcheon and Hutcheon 2004: 3) that arose at the end of the eighteenth century: death, no longer a natural fate, underlines a traumatic rupture, something that certainly applies to Salomé’s situation. ‘LET YOUR DANCE, AT LEAST, REMIND ME OF HER ONCE MORE!’: (THE OMISSION OF) SALOMÉ’S DANCE Whereas Salomé’s suicide is the culmination of the opera’s various storylines, Flaubert had provided his story with a different climax: Salomé’s infamous dance and the ensuing beheading of the Baptist. Although this dance was already present in the gospels, Flaubert’s Hérodias is famous for presenting the very first literary description of the dance (Ogane 2010). In Flaubert’s story, Salomé performs her dance at the end of the banquet held for Antipas’s birthday, a feast during which the various religious tensions in the story come to a climax (more on this below). In an ever-mounting spiritual frenzy, faiths and superstitions are discussed over abundantly flowing wine. Throughout Salomé’s hypnotizing dance, which quickly develops from being initially light and spiritual to becoming more voluptuous and increasingly frenetic, the atmosphere gets all the more feverous (Ogane 2000b). The soaring turmoil of the banquet scene with Salomé’s dance as the climax is the ultimate prelude to Iaokanann’s beheading in Hérodias. Beside his personal experiences on his travels to Egypt, Flaubert found inspiration for this dance in one of the sculptures on the tympanum of the Rouen Cathedral (Flaubert 1965), depicting Salomé balancing on her hands, an image that Flaubert incorporates at the end of the dance: ‘She threw herself on her hands with her heels in the air […]’ (F: 101). Flaubert’s detailed description of Salomé’s dance would result in the development of many variations of the biblical tale, the most significant of which, arguably, is Richard Strauss’s opera Salomé, in which the composer provides no less than nine minutes of music for Salomé’s ‘Dance of the Seven Veils’.7 Because of this, it is all the more remarkable that Salomé’s dance is absent in Massenet’s opera. However, there are various plausible reasons for this omission, both narratively and stylistically. On the level of the opera’s narrative, two main elements impede Salomé from dancing. Since Hérodiade does not (admit to) know her own daughter, she cannot deploy Salomé as a means to seduce Hérode and obtain the Baptist’s head. But also, Salomé’s love for Jean makes it implausible for her to dance in order to achieve her lover’s death. Thus, paradoxically, as Salomé gains importance and comes to the forefront in the opera, the main trademark of her character is omitted. Another explanation for this major intervention may simply reside in Massenet’s own aesthetics and the influence of romantic opera as a genre. In line with French grand opera, Salomé is turned into a flesh-and-blood heroine who acts for her own account and is endowed with a deeper personality. Salomé has become a typical Massenet heroine and, according to Schmidgall, almost the exact opposite of a femme fatale. It is therefore not likely that she would perform such a seductive dance. Wilde’s and Strauss’s Salomé, on the other hand, is a typical decadent figure who is mainly driven by impulses; as a femme fatale par excellence, it befits their Salomé much more to perform this infamous dance. As Massenet’s Salomé does not dance, Hérodiade is stripped of the myth’s most well-known feature, one that remains central to many other takes on the biblical tale. The omission of Salomé’s dance hence is of major importance for Hérodiade’s relationship to the other variations on the myth, as it leads the opera further away from both Flaubert’s and other Salomé renderings. However, although Salomé does not dance in Massenet’s Hérodiade, the ballet in Act IV scene 2, typical to French opera, can be seen as a replacement of Flaubert’s banquet scene and functions as some sort of avatar of the sensuous dance in Flaubert (Brèque). But Salomé’s dance is similarly evoked in Act II, scene 1, when Babylonian slave girls dance in front of Antipas’s bed.8 Drunk with love, the tetrarch laments Salomé’s departure and seeks refuge in the slave girls’ dance. A young Babylonian girl offers him a magic potion in order to see his loved one. Under the influence of this potion, Hérode has a vision of Salomé, and in his aria ‘Fleeting vision, always pursued’,9 one of the most famous pieces of the opera, he sings of his amorous intoxication. In Hérodias, Salomé enchants the tetrarch with her hypnotizing dance, whereas in Hérodiade, Hérode is already in love with her and the slaves’ dance is but a distraction from his love pains. Although there is no magic potion involved in Flaubert’s story, the author implicitly compares Salomé’s dance to a magic potion: Salomé is wearing ‘dark-coloured trousers embellished with mandrakes’ (F: 100), a plant with hallucinogenic effects that was used in folklore in practices of witchcraft and black magic. Furthermore, not only does the opera’s narrative link the Babylonian dance to Salomé, but the music that accompanies the scene also hints at her involvement. The Babylonian dance is based on a theme generally associated with Salomé’s character, a theme that evokes ambiguity (Rowden 2001): just like Salomé, the music is simultaneously sensual and devout, the same mix that characterizes Salomé’s dance in Flaubert’s version. In accordance with the love potion that gives Antipas a vision of Salomé, the music in that scene equally evokes her presence. In this way, despite the omission of Salomé’s infamous dance, the opera still hints at the most captivating element of the myth. It is not only highly significant that Massenet leaves out the central element from both the Salomé myth and Flaubert’s tale, but it also seems paradoxical that the very interventions necessary to bring Salomé to the forefront of the narrative eventually engender the omission of her dance. However, the combination of elements such as the slave girls dancing, the potion that evokes a vision of Salomé and the music associated with her character, provides a sensible solution that allows Massenet to refer to Salomé’s infamous dance without detracting from Salomé’s now virtuous persona. ‘LOVE IS NO BLASPHEMY’: THE ROMANTIC TRIANGLE IN HÉRODIADE The most striking and significant change to Flaubert’s Hérodias is the creation of a love triangle among Hérode, Salomé, and Jean—an intervention with some far-reaching consequences for the opera’s further development. In short, Hérode’s love for Hérodiade has faded. He is now enamoured with Salomé, a dancer at his palace, but she is in love with Jean, who resists her at first, but eventually gives in to his feelings. This romantic plot was commanded by the composer, who instructed his librettists to write a ‘short love poem in which all that is mystical in the Church would be applied to sensual passion’ (cited in Rowden 2001: 115). Such a love triangle is a common operatic convention, rooted in the dramaturgy of the voices where traditionally ‘the love between a soft and pure soprano and a valiant tenor is thwarted by an evil baritone and a wicked mezzo’ (Scholler). The most novel—and most scandalous—element in this tangle is the romance between Salomé and Jean: in Hérodiade, the sensuous dancer and the rigid prophet from Flaubert’s story are involved in a genuine love interest. However, it is probably not so much the love story in itself that can be considered unfavourable, but rather the girl with whom Jean is in love: even though Salomé is mainly portrayed as a pure and innocent girl in Hérodiade, her name will forever remain a ‘symbol of oriental lasciviousness’ (Brèque 120). Hérode’s passion for Salomé is unmistakably clear from his very first aria. Searching for Salomé among the other dancers, he sings: ‘An ineffable intoxication illuminates my heavens! My ray of sunshine is the brightness of your eyes! It is you, you who I am waiting for! I want you, I adore you! Salomé! Salomé! I want you, come back!’ (M: I). When the two finally meet, Hérode ardently declares his love to Salomé. Interestingly, Hérode’s love declaration takes place underground, close to the location where Jean will eventually be imprisoned.10 The tetrarch’s exclamation that only Salomé is ‘the treasure which [he] seek[s] on earth’ (M: III, 2) can be understood as a reference to Flaubert’s Hérodias in which the Romans search ‘Herod’s treasure’ (Flaubert 2005: 86)11 underground, right before discovering Iaokanann’s prison. Reminiscent of Jean’s prophetic message in the opera (more on this below), the tetrarch even refers to an imminent dawn; but unlike the Baptist, Hérode has no spiritual message, advocating carnal love instead: ‘Ah! See what dawn opens in front of you! Come! Salomé, I beg you!’ (M: III, 2). Salomé nevertheless rejects him, declaring that she loves someone else. Brèque argues that Hérode’s amorous exaltations provide his character with a certain incredibility: his languid exclamations reflect ‘the emotions of an adolescent’ (119) or those of ‘a mature man with a mid-life crisis’ (119), rendering Flaubert’s ‘lubricious despot’ (119) unrecognizable in Hérodiade. This exaggeration, however, is in fact inherent to the genre of opera in such a way that during the process of adaptation, the composer and his librettists search for ‘moments in literature—call them lyric or explosive or hyperbolic—which permit them to rise to an operatic occasion’ (Schmidgall 10). Hérode’s romantic aspirations are therefore simply in line with the demand for eloquently passionate characters, according to Schmidgall the most crucial ingredient in opera. Hérode’s desire for Salomé in the opera is different from the attraction that his character feels in the short story: the operatic tetrarch is thoroughly infatuated with Salomé from the very beginning, whereas Flaubert’s Antipas is more ephemerally enchanted by her sensuous dance. In the opening scene of the short story, the tetrarch sees Salomé for the first time when arguing with Hérodias on the balcony of his palace and his interest is immediately sparked. At that time, Antipas does not yet know who she is. Seeing the hypnotizing effect of Salomé on her husband, Hérodias suddenly calms down. The reader learns why only at the end of the story: as part of her plan to regain power over Antipas, Hérodias has instructed her daughter Salomé to dance at the banquet. Just as when he saw her for the first time, Antipas is instantly hooked, and, enchanted by Salomé’s dance, he agrees to give her the head of Iaokanann. The tetrarch knows well enough at the banquet that Salomé, looking like Hérodias ‘as she used to be in her youth’ (F: 100), is his wife’s daughter. In the opera, however, he remains in the dark about this connection and hence his feelings do not take on the incestuous undertone in Flaubert’s story. Hérode’s obsession with Salomé supersedes any matter of state, and it is Phanuel who has to alert him to the imminent uprising against the Romans. Hérode hopes to use the popularity of the prophet among the people to his benefit, and he decides to deal with him afterwards: ‘This Jean will serve me, and once the Romans are cast out, I will overcome the prophets! At my feet you will see fall all the heads of those dangerous fools whom glory has tempted!’ (M: II, 1). At this moment, Hérode does not yet know that it is precisely Jean with whom Salomé is in love; he is only aware of the prophet’s threat to his political power. When the tetrarch learns that Tiberius is appointed king of Judea instead of him, he pursues his plan: ‘Tremble! tremble! I will save Jean, this bold prophet who does not expect anything from your favour, and the Jews will break your conqueror’s yoke!’ (M: III, 2). Hérode hopes that Jean will incite the people to revolt against the Romans. Contrary to Flaubert’s story, in the opera Hérode’s reluctance to kill Jean has nothing to do with sympathy but stems from mere political motives. An exclamation like ‘I cannot help liking him’ (F: 79) would therefore be unthinkable in Hérodiade. Later in that scene, the tetrarch finally learns that Jean is also his rival in love. Although Hérode swears that he will castigate them for their love, he still does not want to put Jean to death when asked by the priests: ‘We cannot condemn this man, truly! He is a madman!’ (M: III, 2). This is for political reasons: given that the tetrarch’s power depends on Roman goodwill, he needs the popular prophet in order to shake off the Roman yoke and thus has to put aside his amorous jealousy. As Brèque argues, Jean’s political utility puts his destiny on hold only momentarily and without changing it, because when Salomé finally exclaims that she wants to share the prophet’s fate, Hérode has had enough: ‘Curse! it is him with whom she is in love! And I was going to save him!’ (M: III, 2). His jealousy has taken over after all, and the tetrarch ends up condemning Jean to death, accusing him of the revolutionary attempts that actually were his own, as well as of the love he too feels for Salomé: ‘Priests, you were right! He wants to stir the people against Rome and the Caesar! He threatened the mighty with severe punishment, he preached rebellion to the humble of the earth, and he, the holy prophet… is the odious lover of Salomé, the courtesan! Hit them! For my voice condemns them!’ (M: III, 2). Hérode’s final decision to condemn Jean to death is in keeping with the characteristics of a romantic triangle in opera, where ‘the rejected baritone thwarts the love of the soprano and the tenor’ (Scholler). Whereas Massenet’s storyline of Hérode’s love for Salomé can still be seen to derive from the Antipas’s (erotic) interest in Salomé in Flaubert’s tale, the love between Jean and Salomé is a completely new storyline that leads the opera far away from the short story. Just like the hidden filiation between Salomé and Hérodiade, this love intrigue is introduced at the very beginning of the opera. Salomé had met the prophet while searching for her mother in the desert, as she describes in her aria ‘He is kind, he is good’12: while initially sad about the vain search, Salomé switches to a sweet melody when she recalls her encounter with Jean, the only person capable of calming her soul. Right from the start, Salomé’s interest in Jean appears to be more than solely spiritually grounded: she states to Phanuel ‘with momentum and love’ (M: I) how she cannot live without her ‘beloved prophet’. The true nature of her feelings becomes clear when Salomé meets Jean at the end of Act I and declares her love to him: ‘What I want, oh Jean! To tell you that I love you and that I belong to you! That I live through you, that my whole being is in suspense at the sound of your voice! I belong to you! I love you! […] Far away from you I suffered and now I am healed! In your gaze is my country; my face is bathed in tears, and my heart thrills with happiness!’ (M: I). Jean, however, rejects Salomé, indicating that for her ‘it is the season of love’ (M: I), whereas for him ‘fate is completely different’ (M: I). He wants to devote himself to his mission of announcing ‘the new faith and immortality’ (M: I), and romantic affairs do not square with this vocation. Rowden (2001) indicates that the lack of common ground between these two characters can also be heard in the music underscoring that scene: Salomé is accompanied by a dominant seventh chord in B♭ major, whereas Jean’s reply is accompanied by a dominant chord in E major, the key furthest away from B♭ (118). Jean’s preoccupation with his religious vocation is also highlighted by his recitative in psalmodic style, while the use of the harp as well as the white-note C major tonality underline his ‘high moral standards, godliness and purity’ (Rowden 2001: 116). During the rest of the opera, the use of the harp and of the white-note C major tonality act as a code for evoking this sense of divinity. Salomé tries to convince Jean, stating that ‘love is no blasphemy’ (M: I), but the Baptist refuses categorically and proposes that she love him in a spiritual way: ‘Love me then, but as one loves in dreams, transfigure the love that consumes your senses into mystic ardour in which the ideal plunges you! Banish all transports of a profane feeling, lift your soul up to heaven! That it hangs amidst the scent of cloudy incense!’ (M: I). Up to this point, the portrayal of the operatic Jean is more or less in line with Flaubert’s Iaokanann, who is an unyielding prophet, preoccupied with proclaiming the establishment of a new faith. At the end of Act I, Salomé thus finds herself devoid of both maternal and romantic love. Despite his initial restraint, however, Jean ultimately reciprocates Salomé’s love when he is imprisoned. Awaiting his death, the prophet claims to regret nothing, but he cannot help thinking of Salomé. Jean’s reminiscences of Salomé are musically underscored by a variation on their first duet, where he rejected Salomé out of spiritual ambitions. Yet this time, accompanied by a different undertone (Rowden 2001), the use of the saxophone, as well as the scenic indication that ‘he falls back overwhelmed’ (M: IV, 1), also form an allusion to Hérode’s aria, ‘Fleeting vision’, where the tetrarch sings of his carnal desires for Salomé, before ‘falling back overwhelmed on his bed’ (M: II, 1). Contrary to the harp, which suggests godliness in the opera, the use of the saxophone in Hérodiade functions as a signifier of sensuality and carnal desire. By means of these musical and scenic references, Massenet exhibits a change in the nature of Jean’s attitude towards Salomé: the purely spiritual feelings of before have now evolved into a romantic inclination (Rowden 2001). When Salomé appears in his prison cell, Jean finally gives in to his feelings for her, admitting that his declaration of love is ‘no blasphemy’ (M: IV, 1), another reference to their initial duet. Underlining the ease with which Jean overcomes his internal conflict, Brèque insists on the Baptist’s metamorphosis, from an intransigent, nearly cardboard precursor in Flaubert’s story into a flesh-and-blood character provided with human feelings and even amorous longings. Their romantic happiness, however, does not last long, given that Jean is sentenced to death. In the ultimate expression of her love, Salomé proposes to die with him and even rejoices in their ‘sublime martyrdom’ (M: IV, 1). At first, Jean rejects her offer, but again he gives in: ‘It is a beautiful thing to die loving, my dear soul! When our days are extinguished as a sad flame, our love, beaming in heaven with clarity, will find mystery and immortality!’ (M: IV, 1). Salomé’s proposition once more evokes ambiguous emotions: her melody in chaste C major is mirrored by a chromatic countermelody assigned to the saxophone, thus displaying the subtle mix of mysticism and eroticism that is characteristic of Massenet’s Hérodiade (Rowden 2001). Furthermore, Salomé’s longing for their ‘sublime martyrdom’ echoes Hérode’s amorous torments in his aria of Act II, scene 1, where he demands ‘pity of his martyrdom’ (M: II, 1). Jean and Salomé’s duet becomes increasingly ecstatic: the opening motif of their passionate theme is successively repeated, each time a semitone higher and louder, and the confusion of their spiritual and carnal love culminates in the exclamation ‘Transport of love embrace us always!’ (M: IV, 1), while they hold each other (Rowden 2001). The romance of Jean and Salomé has considerable consequences for the prophet’s portrayal in the opera. Although the Baptist is known as a character from the New Testament, Flaubert depicts him in the tradition of the Old Testament’s prophets: his Hebrew name Iaokanann has an Old Testament ring to it, he mimics the threats of these prophets, and he proclaims God’s wrath upon those who do not obey him (Nykrog). Massenet’s Jean, on the other hand, seems to vacillate between the Old and New Testaments, depending on the characters surrounding him. Jean sometimes resembles Flaubert’s Iaokanann, then later displays gentler characteristics. Just like Iaokanann, Jean refutes the tetrarch’s marriage and seizes every opportunity to insult Hérodiade, but Salomé’s presence awakens a wholly other, softer side of him, to the extent that he even displays amorous feelings and longings, something which would be unthinkable for Flaubert’s Iaokanann. This modification of the prophet’s character, as well as his more in-depth portrayal, is not only a prerequisite for Jean’s more prominent role in the opera, but also stems from Massenet’s intention of highlighting the human side of the biblical story (Rowden 2001). In addition to the different portrayals of Jean and the omission of Salomé’s dance, the opera’s romantic plot has another crucial consequence. In the short story, it is Hérodias who prompts Iaokanann’s death: in order to exact vengeance on the prophet, Hérodias ‘coldly prostitutes’ (Brèque 119) her daughter, who seduces Antipas and demands Iaokanann’s head. In the opera, however, Salomé is in love with Jean and would therefore never contribute to the prophet’s death. Furthermore, in the opera, Hérodiade does not elaborate a plan to kill Jean: she hates Salomé even more than Jean and is preoccupied with exacting her revenge on the former. Although Salomé accuses her mother of having Jean murdered, it is actually Hérode’s jealousy that got him killed. Hérodiade has no part in Jean’s death, an intervention that leads Brèque—with good reason—to conclude that this eclipse of Hérodiade’s responsibility no longer justifies the fact that the opera is still named after her. ‘IT IS GOD THAT WE CALL YOU!’: THE BAPTIST AS A CHRIST FIGURE Given that Flaubert’s Hérodias is a literary rendering of a biblical tale, it is not surprising that the author assigns a prominent role to the religious aspect of his short story. Still, Flaubert (1973: 178) asserted that ‘the story of Hérodias […] has nothing to do with religion’. Indeed, in his narration of Christianity’s turbulent early days, the author does not depict religion as such, but rather the conflicts arising from the different beliefs in Judea, thus providing the story with its stifling atmosphere. In this respect, the religious aspect in the opera is mainly limited to the depiction of a single religion, namely (the rise of) Christianity. Massenet, however, does capture the spiritual chaos that characterizes Flaubert’s Hérodias, albeit in a completely different way. In Hérodiade, religious confusion is mainly emblematized in the character of the Baptist by means of a network of references, both musical and textual, which endow Jean with an enigmatic identity. Flaubert’s descriptions of the different beliefs present at the Machærous fortress, as well as the clashes between them, strongly contribute to the story’s turmoil. This is best reflected in the banquet scene at the end of Hérodias, where beliefs and superstitions intensify in a feverous frenzy, as this key paragraph illuminates: While the guests were being served with ox-kidneys, dormice, nightingales and minced meat wrapped in vine leaves, the priests debated the problem of resurrection. Ammonius, a pupil of Philo the Platonist, thought they were stupid and said so to some Greeks who were joking about oracles. Marcellus had come over to join Jacob and was telling him of the joys he had experienced as a baptized follower of Mithras. Jacob urged him to follow Jesus. Palm and tamarisk wines, the wines of Safed and Byblos, flowed from jars into bowls, from bowls into cups and from cups into thirsty mouths. Soon everyone was chatting away happily with their neighbours and beginning to relax. Jacim, although he was a Jew, was saying how he still worshipped the planets. A merchant from Aphek was regaling a group of nomads with a detailed account of the marvels of the temple at Hierapolis and they were asking him how much a pilgrimage there would cost. Others were perfectly happy with the religion of their own country. A German who was nearly blind sang a hymn in praise of the promontory in Scandinavia where the gods appear in shining glory, and there were some people from Sichem who would not eat turtle doves, as a mark of respect for the dove Azima. (F: 97–98) Everything at the banquet is excessive: sumptuous meals pair with animated discussions about religious questions such as ‘the problem of resurrection’. The cited paragraph amplifies beliefs and opinions: a Platonist disciple criticises the Greeks for abandoning their ancient traditions and two other guests promote the cults of respectively Mithra and Jesus. As the banquet continues, the religious confusion mounts, reinforced by the wine abundantly flowing. Brombert stresses the irony in Flaubert’s denunciation of the relative and fragmentary character of these beliefs: converted guests, some hiding their true beliefs while others hold on to ‘the religion of their own country’, and even a merchant selling his pilgrimage as a tourist attraction are all mentioned in the same breath. Moreover, in the final sentence, the use of the conjunction ‘and’ instead of ‘whereas’ puts a German pagan and the people of Shechem who do not eat turtledoves on equal footing. In this manner, Flaubert suggests that, just as he does with the food and the conversations about resurrection in the first sentence, all religions are equally important—or unimportant, as the case may be (Brombert). According to Ogane (2000a), the banquet scene is characteristic of Flaubert’s writing, as it allows the author to concretise his obsession with an ‘inexhaustible gluttony’ (49) by turning the meal into a veritable ‘alimentary ceremony’ (49), a place of encounter—almost a communion. However, the seemingly syncretic conversations are ineffective as no one really listens to one another. This leaves Brombert to conclude that the banquet takes the form of a false communion: the guests share food and wine, but they don’t really grow closer. Instead, the conversations during the banquet scene reflect the encounter of beliefs at Machaerous, resulting in ‘a frantic bazaar of ideas’ (Brombert 250). In both renderings of the tale, a pivotal role is assigned to the character of the Baptist, the forerunner of the arrival of the Messiah. This role, however, is interpreted differently in the two versions. Central to Hérodias is Iaokanann’s prophetic utterance ‘If his reign is to come, mine must end’ (F: 74), a mysterious statement about the arrival of the Messiah that haunts the tetrarch. Antipas keeps wondering who this ‘he’ is that Iaokanann is talking about. For, when Iaokanann proclaims that there is ‘no other king but the Almighty’ (F: 89), the arrival of this Messiah also threatens Antipas’s political power. Furthermore, according to Judaism, ‘the Messiah would be preceded by the coming of Elijah’ (F: 96). If Iaokanann’s prophecy is a harbinger of the Messiah, he must consequently be Elijah, something that adds significantly more weight to Antipas’s decision to have him decapitated. But there is another prophecy: Phanuel foresees ‘the death of an important person that very night in Machaerus’ (F: 91). Considering that Vitellius, the Roman proconsul in Judea, is well guarded and that Iaokanann is considered too popular to be executed, Antipas fears that this statement is about him. So when Salomé asks for Iaokanann’s head, the tetrarch sees a chance to escape his fate, and he appeases his conscience with rhetorical astuteness: ‘It occurred to him that if the death which Phanuel had predicted happened to someone else, at least his own death might be averted. If Jokanaan really was Elias, he would find a way of avoiding it. If he was not, then the murder was of no consequence’ (F: 102). In the opera, Jean never pronounces a similar prophecy about the rise of the Messiah (only about ‘the new faith [that] is about to bloom’ [M: I]), but his identity is no less enigmatic. In Hérodiade, it is not clear whether Jean is just a prophet announcing the arrival of the Messiah or the Messiah himself. On multiple occasions, the libretto raises doubts about whether Jean has a divine or mortal nature. This confusion is clearly manifested in Phanuel’s aria ‘Shimmering stars’ where the seer consults the stars in order to find answers (Huebner)13: ‘Stars that unveil the destiny of mankind, sparkling stars, speak! What is this Jean? Is he a man? Speak, is he a God?’ (M: III, 1). These three questions, forming some sort of refrain in this aria in three parts (ABA’), are reinforced by the way in which Phanuel poses them: during the outer parts (A and A’), they are accompanied by a cadence, while in the middle part (B) the questions are laid bare in a recitative-like declamation. Furthermore, the sustained cadential tonic chords are held in suspense, providing the music with a frustrated expectancy, which emphasizes Jean’s unknown nature (Huebner). At the moment of the last cadence, following a brilliant C major chord, the full orchestra drops out except for the shimmering sound of the upper strings. Accompanied by the opera’s symbol of divinity, Phanuel contemplates the starry night, but before he can find answers to his questions, Hérodiade enters on stage and interrupts him. There is no closure—Jean’s nature remains a mystery to both Phanuel and the audience. Contrary to Phanuel, the other characters seem to have made up their minds about the prophet’s identity. When Jean is put on trial, the priests accuse him of being ‘a false Messiah’ (M: III, 2), and Hérode mocks him, minimizing the prophet’s importance and power: ‘Here is the mortal who stirs the world’ (M: III, 2). Salomé, on the other hand, seems convinced of the opposite. Later in that scene, she comes out of the crowd, runs to Jean, and highlights his divine nature: ‘It is God that we call you! For he is not a man’ (M: III, 2). By evoking these antagonizing views, the mystery about Jean’s identity is reinforced even more and Massenet leaves the decision up to the audience. Doubts about Jean’s nature culminate in the many references to Christ. As Massenet admitted to his students many years later, these were intentional: ‘In my conception, Jean is not the Precursor of history, but Christ himself, and Salomé is the Magdalen. The entry of Jean into Jerusalem imitates the entry of Jesus. Everything is modelled on the life of Christ’.14 This focus on Christ stems mainly from the fact that Massenet created Hérodiade with his ‘drame sacré’ Marie-Magdeleine (1873) in mind, an oratorio that was based on La vie de Jésus (1863) by Ernest Renan.15 Massenet states that ‘it is probably the best (piece) of theatre because it is written under influence of Marie-Magdeleine. Same country, same colour—and yet I do not know whether it will succeed’ (cited in Ramaut 163). In other words, in his depiction of Jean and Salomé, Massenet followed the blueprint of his oratorio, resulting in a stark resemblance to the Jesus and Mary Magdalen of the oratorio. According to Huebner, however, Salomé’s feelings for Jean are less spiritually rooted than Mary Magdalen’s love for Jesus. During her first duet with Jean, Salomé’s words become increasingly fiery and the mounting ardour of her passions is also reflected in the stage directions, signalling that Salomé sings ‘with transport’, ‘with ardour’, and even ‘with intoxication’ (M: I). At the peak of her declaration of love, Salomé wishes that ‘the gold of [her] hair would spread at [his] knees’ (M: I), a clear reference to Mary Magdalen drying Christ’s feet with her tresses, now overlain by the sensuous image of ‘feminine hair sensuously engulfing the legs of the Baptist’ (Huebner 41).16 Massenet suggested this erotic force of a woman’s tresses in a letter to Milliet when he gave the example of ‘a woman’s hair that would be considered as a man’s cilice’ (cited in Rowden 2001: 115). In addition to this biblical reference, Salomé’s exclamation also refers to sensuality in an intratextual way. A little later in the opera, Hérode sings of his longings for Salomé in his aria ‘Fleeting vision’, and, at the height of his amorous ecstasy, he wishes that ‘[his] lip touches the gold of [her] hair’ (M: II, 1). By echoing Salomé’s exclamation, the love of this girl that looked rather innocent at first now appears to be clearly infused with carnal desire. The life of Christ is evoked not only by the portrayal of some of the characters in Hérodiade, but also by a number of larger events that equally echo the Passion; these interventions steer the opera even further away from Flaubert’s Hérodias. In Act II, scene 2, a large crowd is gathered in front of the palace when Jean and Salomé make their dramatic entrance. Accompanied by Canaanite women and children singing the ‘Hosannah’ and waving palm branches, the couple appears on stage, haloed by the moonlight—an imitation of Christ’s arrival in Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, as Massenet himself explained. Comparably, the mass scene of Jean’s condemnation that follows mimics the trial of Jesus: the Pharisees present Jean as a malefactor who preaches discord and ‘calls himself King of the Jews’ (M: III, 2). Vitellius is the Roman representative who plays the role of Pontius Pilatus. Comparable to the Gospel where the Roman prefect washes his hands in innocence, Vitellius chooses to stay out of the conflict and leaves all responsibility to Hérode: ‘Jean is Galilean, it is up to you to pass judgment’ (M: III, 2). His decision reverses Flaubert’s version of the tale, where the tetrarch is comforted that ‘Jokanaan was no longer his responsibility; the Romans would deal with him’ (F: 91). Parallel to Jesus’s fate, the crowd finally asks for Jean’s crucifixion: ‘To the cross! and if he must live, let his God set him free’ (M: III, 2), an exclamation resembling Antipas’s reasoning about Iaokanann/Elias in Flaubert’s story. In this way, the Baptist’s martyrdom in the opera recalls the crucifixion of Christ, and, to a lesser extent, the fate of Iaokanann at the end of the banquet in Flaubert’s tale. Finally, Jean himself also causes confusion about his true nature in his address to God during his imprisonment: ‘Lord, if I am your son, tell me why you let love shake my faith. Lord, am I your son?’ (M: IV, 1). At this point, Jean himself seems to be genuinely confused about his role and the fate awaiting him. The behaviour of the operatic Jean contrasts sharply with that of Iaokanann, since Flaubert’s prophet ‘shows humility and is conscious of the role he plays in a greater destiny’ (Rowden 2006: 276). This is clear by his prophecy: ‘If his reign is to come, mine must end!’ (F: 74).17 A possible reason for the opera’s many references to and similarities with the life of Christ is the fact that, at the time of Hérodiade’s premiere, it was generally not accepted to have the character of Jesus on the operatic stage, even less so if he were involved in a romantic intrigue. By passing Christ off as the Baptist, Huebner suggests, Massenet could provide his contemporaries with a convenient excuse to ignore any hint of blasphemy. On a strictly religious level, however, Jean never really resembles Christ: there is only one moment in Hérodiade where Jean truly proclaims an evangelical message, this is during his first duet with Salomé (Rowden 2001): ‘Child, look at this dawn, the new faith is about to bloom! Child, look at this dawn of life and immortality!’ (M: I). This brief message, however, is intertwined with Salomé’s simultaneous singing of her earthly love for him, and later in the opera Jean will eventually give in to her. Rowden (2001) suggests that the real prophet in Hérodiade perhaps is not Jean, but the seer Phanuel, given that it is Phanuel who announces the true evangelical message of love and hope: ‘They remain deaf to the immortal voice that repeats: “Love! Forgiveness! Eternal life!”‘ (M: I). The stage directions reinforce this idea: during his duet with Hérodiade, Phanuel sings ‘with a prophetic accent’ (M: I) and ‘under prophetic influence’ (M: I), while Jean proclaims his ‘gospel’ merely ‘inspired’ (M: I), a considerably weaker qualifier (Rowden 2001). ‘ANOTHER QUARREL!’: ON THE VARIOUS POWER STRUGGLES IN BOTH RENDERINGS The original biblical tale of the Baptist’s beheading contains a series of power struggles, most of which revolve around Antipas. The most evident conflict is between Iaokanann on the one hand, and Antipas and Hérodias on the other, as a result of the prophet’s disapproval of their marriage. But there is also the dispute between Antipas and Hérodias, since Hérodias seeks to avenge herself, while Antipas is not very eager to do Iaokanann harm. Furthermore, Antipas not only clashes with Iaokanann and with his wife, but he also rivals for political power with Vitellius, the proconsul symbolizing the Roman oppression of the Galilean people. These power struggles also take up large roles in both renderings of the tale but are nevertheless displayed in different ways. The various characters and the territories of power that they represent repeatedly clash in Flaubert’s Hérodias. This is also reflected in a structural way by means of two oppositional pairs: verticality-horizontality and speech-silence. The first duality applies to the traditional opposition between all that is divine and sacred on the one hand, and the profane and even sinful world on the other hand, resulting in a dominant underlying structural motif (Leal). In the opening scene of the story, which evokes the threatening surroundings of Machaerous, these spatial forces are manifested in the environment in constant alternation: The citadel of Machaerus stood to the east of the Dead Sea on an outcrop of basalt shaped like a cone. It was surrounded by four deep valleys, one on each side, one in front and one behind. Around the base of the rock was a cluster of houses, enclosed within a circular wall that rose and fell as it followed the contours of the land on which it was built. A zigzag road hewn out of the rock connected the town below with the fortress, whose walls were a hundred and twenty cubits high and built at irregular angles with battlements along the edges and towers dotted along them that looked rather like the ornamental points on this crown of stone, perched high above the abyss. Inside there was a palace graced with colonnades and a terrace-roof enclosed by a sycamore balustrade and a series of tall poles which were designed to carry an awning. (F: 71) These forces also apply to the characters present in this environment: Iaokanann’s appearance is systematically accompanied by vertical forces, whereas the other main characters mainly represent the horizontal world. A clear example of these clashing forces can be found in Hérodias’s traumatic meeting with Iaokanann when travelling to Gilead: I saw people on the river-bank putting their clothes back on. There was a man standing on a little mound near them, declaiming something. […] As soon as he saw me he spat out a stream of curses from the prophets. His eyes were ablaze, he ranted and raved and raised his hands aloft as if trying to call down thunder from the skies. It was impossible to get away. The wheels of my chariot were up to their axles in the sand. I could only move forward very slowly, covering myself with my cloak and with my blood running cold at the deluge of insults that rained down upon me. (F: 77) Standing on a hill, Iaokanann’s curses fall down on Hérodias like divine precipitation, and as the wheels of her vehicle get stuck in the sand, Hérodias has to crawl away from him, seeking shelter under her cloak. Finally, the opposition between these horizontal and vertical forces is also clearly manifested in the description of the banquet scene, the ultimate clash between the godly and the irreligious: the room consists of ‘three aisles like a basilica’ (F: 93), while the tables are ‘set out in rows from one end of the hall to the other’ (F: 93), and the candelabras direct the eye towards the heights of the ceiling where the lights are ‘like stars in the night’ (F: 93). By alternating these horizontal and vertical dimensions, the banquet scene is ‘set for the dual emphasis on a worldly celebration and the significant religious and spiritual event with which the chapter concludes’ (Leal 814). The other duality reflecting the power struggles in Hérodias is speech-silence, with speech symbolizing power and silence expressing powerlessness and even submission. The symbolic meaning of silence is best reflected in the portrayal of Antipas. From the story’s very beginning, he is submerged in a silence that is constantly assailed by the vehemence of other people’s speech (Bertrand). Antipas’s silence has a double function: it decries his weakness, both towards his wife and towards Iaokanann, while also demonstrating his apathy. Opposed to that silence is the speech of others, as manifested mainly in the conflicting relations among Antipas, Hérodias, and Iaokanann (Murphy). Speech in Hérodias functions as a genuine weapon, especially in the case of the prophet Iaokanann, whose words, as the story mentions more than once, have a destructive power; a ‘power more insidious than the sword’ (F: 77). His verbal power is such that he disarms others, leaving them speechless. When Antipas exclaims that the prophet ‘possesses great power’ (F: 79), it is the power of speech he refers to, given that Iaokanann has done nothing but pronounce his allegations and maledictions, a minor crime that nevertheless caused his imprisonment. The opera has the same power struggles, but their structural manifestation is limited to the opposition of divine versus profane, borne out musically by the harp and saxophone. The duality of horizontality and verticality is not included in the scenic indications of the libretto, but it is nevertheless possible that this opposition was incorporated into the dramatic aspect of actual productions. On the level of narrative, however, the power struggles cannot be missed: they are clearly manifested in mass scenes where large choirs sing of the different conflicts that reign in everyday life. Just like in Hérodias, a tension is evident from the opera’s opening scene, which starts off with such a collective setting: choirs of army leaders, slaves, and merchants are gathered in a big courtyard inside the palace and, almost immediately, a dispute erupts between Pharisees and Samaritans. When Phanuel enters on stage, the choirs stop quarrelling and the seer denounces the conflicts in Judea. Furthermore, he foresees an imminent revolt against the Romans, given that the people have had enough of their oppression, anticipating in this way the trouble ahead. Locke describes how this Roman oppression is also manifested on a musical level, since imperialist Rome serves as the stylistic norm to which Massenet juxtaposes the orientalism of the Jewish peoples. This distinction is expanded further, to the extent that the music accompanying the characters which the Jews themselves consider exotic—such as the merchants and the slaves—sounds even more oriental (Locke). Thus, from the opera’s onset, the hostilities between the different peoples of Judea are emphasized both musically and verbally. Similar tensions are displayed in the second mass scene, when Jean and Salomé make their entrance in the style of Palm Sunday. The crowd asks the tetrarch to deliver them from their oppression, and Hérode inflames the people even more by calling for a ‘sacred war’ (M: II, 2) against the Romans. Suddenly, Hérodiade appears at the top of the stairs, drawing attention to the arrival of the Roman proconsul and his entourage, whose fanfares can already be heard. Hérodiade’s words, sung in a recitative-like style, intersect with the rhythm of the Roman trumpets, and then her vocal line actually changes the course of the Roman’s music (Rowden 2001). By means of her musical language, Hérodiade thus imposes her authority over the Romans. Proconsul Vitellius’s arrival causes agitation, and the revolutionary fire is temporarily extinguished, but soon all parties return to their senses, and the different camps reveal their personal, spiritual, and political agendas simultaneously (Rowden 2001). Vitellius swears to punish the people for their collusion against him, whereas Hérode and the crowd rejoice in their imminent vengeance on the Romans. Phanuel, on the other hand, sees a sign that Jean’s time has come. Hérodiade, for her part, reveals her hidden agenda during this aria: although she usually is ‘contemptuous’ (M: I) towards Hérode and addresses him ‘with rage’ (M: I) or ‘ironically’ (M: II, 2), she now conceals her disdain and approaches her husband ‘with tenderness’ (M: II, 2). Hérodiade’s true colours become clear in the words she sings: ‘The ungrateful man who forgot me bows to them, he trembles, and fate grants my wishes! What trouble makes him avert his eyes? He trembles! but my triumph is near! And fate will grant my wishes!’ (M: II, 2). Other than the vengeance on her love rival that Hérodiade rejoiced in during her duet with Phanuel, this ‘triumph’ refers to a (personal) political victory. In Flaubert’s story, Hérodias’s divorce from her first husband was motivated by her strong political ambition: ‘Ever since childhood she had dreamed of ruling over a great empire. This is what had prompted her to leave her first husband and marry this one, who she now thought had been deceiving her.’ (F: 77). Although the background information of the divorce is not explicitly mentioned in the opera, it is likely that Hérodiade’s separation from her ex-husband is yet again inspired by power interests. In this way, the idea of an imminent revolt against the Romans provides Hérodiade with the possibility to finally satisfy her political ambitions and gain more power through her second husband (Rowden 2001). After Vitellius, Hérode, and Hérodiade have revealed their own agendas, the Roman proconsul addresses the people and proclaims his authority over Judea. Parallel to Flaubert’s story where the Romans allocate priesthood to the Sadducees, Vitellius then intervenes in the religious conflicts: allocating the Temple of Israel to the people, he implements the Caesar’s justice in Judea. Vitellius has hardly finished his speech when Jean and Salomé make their entrance. On a musical level, Jean’s entry intersects with the Roman fanfares, replacing their profane music with the celestial music of the ‘Hosannah’, accompanied by harp arpeggio’s in cascade (Rowden 2006). Next to his musical language, Jean also offends the Romans by proclaiming that ‘all justice comes from heaven’ (M: II, 2) and that Vitellius’s ‘fragile power breaks at the feet of the Eternal like a clay vase’ (M: II, 2), a remark similar to Iaokanann’s denunciation of Antipas’s worldly power in Flaubert’s story when he states that ‘there is no other king but the Almighty’ (F: 89). By diametrically opposing Hérode, Hérodiade, Vitellius, and Jean, Massenet highlights the antagonizing forces of civil and divine justice, and, in this manner, the composer incorporates in Hérodiade the ideological debate at the time about the role of the Church in the State. In this light, Jean’s declaration can be read as a reactionary fulmination of the Catholic Church, with contemporary anticlericalism (symbolized by the Romans) as its target (Rowden 2001). With the final mass scene in Hérodiade, the trial of Jean and the entanglement of the opera’s different storylines reaches its height. Contrary to Hérode’s call for a revolt against the Romans, Vitellius now exhorts the people to honour the ‘magnitude of Rome’ (M: III, 2). Given that ancient Rome serves as an example of republican power for the Third Republic, Massenet’s contemporaries could quite possibly consider Vitellius as representing a political ideal (Rowden 2001). The priests request a quid pro quo: Jean’s condemnation. Vitellius, however, leaves this decision to Hérode, thus adroitly avoiding any intervention in this religious affair, which, according to Rowden (2001), signals a parallelism between Massenet’s Romans and the Third Republic’s policy of laicization. Jean’s death sentence has an impact on the different religious, amorous, and political storylines: the priests get rid of this ‘false Messiah’, Hérode disposes of his love rival, and Vitellius eliminates the revolutionary threat, while he also appeases Hérode by handing over responsibility to him. Furthermore, the prophet’s execution results in the revelation of the hidden relationship between Salomé and Hérodiade, since Jean’s death prompts Hérodiade to disclose her secret. FROM HÉRODIAS TO HÉRODIADE OR FROM HÉRODIAS TO SALOMÉ: DETACHED FROM BOTH THE STORY AND THE MYTH A comprehensive analysis of Massenet’s Hérodiade reveals why this opera is seldom to never recognized as an integral part of the so-called web of mutual influence that arose between other renderings of the Salomé myth at the turn of the twentieth century. By comparing Massenet’s Hérodiade to Flaubert’s Hérodias—the short story considered the opera’s main inspiration and acknowledged as a prominent element in this web of mutual influence—this article highlights Hérodiade’s status as a self-contained rendering of the Salomé myth, rather than just an unfaithful adaptation. Three elements distinctly stand out in Massenet’s interpretation of the tale: the conventions of nineteenth-century opera, the composer’s artistic vision, and the impact of the Zeitgeist and contemporary events. These heterogeneous factors have both separately and jointly directed the adaptation process and have shaped the opera as we know it today. The most significant outcome of this interplay of factors is a shift in focus and, more specifically, in protagonist, from Hérodias to Salomé. Salomé’s new leading part, however, is not just the result of an increased role; it also involves a fundamental revision of her persona. This is best reflected in the opera’s most striking peculiarity, the love triangle. While the inclusion of a love triangle as such mainly stems from Romantic opera conventions prone to depict a love story between the soprano and tenor that is thwarted by the baritone and mezzo, the actual interpretation and implementation of this trope in Hérodiade originates in Massenet’s own aesthetics. By involving Jean and Salomé in a genuine love interest, the composer highlights the human aspect of the biblical story, showing romantic love in a religious context. In order for Salomé to become a genuine part of this love story and to fit the mould of an operatic heroine, she is disconnected from her mother by means of the hidden kinship, an intervention necessary to transform her from a cardboard figure into a flesh-and-blood character acting on her own account. Furthermore, despite her romantic interest in the Baptist, the Salomé in the opera is far removed from the quintessential femme fatale and instead embodies a pure and innocent heroine. These deviations from both Flaubert’s story and the myth add considerably more weight to Salomé’s character and eventually lead to her dramatic suicide at the end of the opera. Moreover, as a result of both her part in the love triangle and the hidden kinship, Salomé will not dance for Hérode. This peculiarity is probably the most consequential of all changes for Hérodiade’s place among other renderings of the myth, in which the dance usually is the ultimate climax, think of Wilde’s and Strauss’s decadent Salomé—versions that are far removed from Massenet’s interpretation of the tale. The love story not only changes Salomé’s character, but also affects the portrayal of the prophet: by involving Jean in a romantic affair with Salomé—an audacious liberty vis-à-vis both Flaubert’s Hérodias and the gospels, the composer reveals the Baptist’s human emotions. The operatic Jean is no unbending prophet, but a human being with feelings and longings. This shift in the portrayal of Jean is expressed mainly through the presence of Salomé and is reflected by the subtle blend of mysticism and eroticism in his musical language by means of the harp and the saxophone. Massenet’s own creative input may be the most obvious in the many similarities between Jean and Salomé on the one hand, and Jesus and Mary Magdalen on the other; thus transforming Hérodiade into a re-creation of his Marie-Magdeleine, as he later admitted. In contrast to the romantic emotions that make Jean more human, the references to Christ point in the opposite direction and provide the Baptist with an enigmatic nature. Jean’s celestial power is highlighted even further by opposing him to the secular regime of Vitellius and the Romans. By merging the political backdrop of France’s Third Republic with the portrayal of the Romans, Massenet incorporates the contemporary debate about the role of the Church in the State. The romantic triangle eventually triggers a series of jealousies that direct the opera’s further development. The most critical consequence of this storyline is the altered responsibility for Jean’s death, which no longer stems from Hérodiade’s offended honour, but from Antipas’s amorous jealousy. The love triangle therefore not only augments Salomé’s role in the opera, but equally leads to the diminution of Hérodiade’s importance. With this in mind, it is rather paradoxical that the opera is still named after Hérodiade, instead of Salomé. Although there is no clear answer as to why the opera was not called ‘Salomé’, it is most likely that the composer and librettists decided to preserve (and slightly adjust) the title of Flaubert’s tale in order to highlight the link between both works as a quality mark in order to attract a large audience. It is clear that the transformation from Hérodias to Hérodiade was not solely inspired by the demands of operatic adaptation; instead, a diverse set of factors are the incentive for Massenet’s opera as we know it today. The result is a multifaceted reinvention of the Salomé legend and, more specifically, of Salomé’s character. With the opera’s shift in protagonist, the stark emphasis on human emotions, and the omission of Salomé’s infamous dance, it is safe to say that Hérodiade is not only a particular rendering of Flaubert’s Hérodias, but of the fin-de-siècle myth in general. Footnotes 1 Pseudonym of the editor Georges Hartmann. 2 As Hutcheon and Hutcheon (2017) elaborate, opera is a collaborative medium in which multiple creators (such as composer, librettist, and producer) join forces. As such, this article will not differentiate between Massenet, the librettists, or other dominant voices with regard to the interventions in the story—unless explicitly mentioned. 3 As the musicological aspect of opera is not my expertise, the references to the opera’s musical element will mainly rely on Rowden’s studies (2001 and 2006). 4 In order to avoid confusion when referring to Hérodias and Hérodiade, this article will adopt the characters’ names as they appear in the different versions. In the cited English translation of Flaubert’s Hérodias, ‘Iaokanann’ is modified into ‘Jokanaan’. 5 The libretto does not indicate any tableaux (henceforth ‘scenes’) in Act I. To avoid confusion, this article will not refer to the sublevel of ‘scènes’ as indicated in the French libretto. As this edition of the libretto contains only a small amount of stage directions, this article will refer to an online edition of the libretto when quoting scenic indications: http://www.cs.hs-rm.de/~weber/opera/libretto.htm. Henceforth, both libretti will be referred to directly in the text as ‘M’. The act and scene are indicated by, respectively, Roman and Latin numerals. 6 Salomé’s non-personality is even more manifest in the gospel, where her name is never mentioned. The name ‘Salomé’ appears for the first time in the work of the Judeo-roman historiographer Flavius Josephus. 7 In Oscar Wilde’s play Salomé, which was, after translation from French to German, almost literally transformed into the libretto for Strauss’s opera, there is no description of Salomé’s dance, only the scenic indication ‘Salomé dances the dance of the seven veils’. 8 This scene was added to the final version of Hérodiade and was not yet part of the opera at its premiere in Brussels. The Babylonian dance is taken from the temple scene (Act III, scene 2) and was previously designated as ‘Les filles de Manahïm’ (Rowden 2001). 9 ‘Vision fugitive et toujours poursuivie’. 10 It should be noted that Jean is imprisoned only at the end of the opera, contrary to Flaubert’s prophet, who spends the entire story in his prison cell and is taken out only after his death. 11 Henceforth referred to as ‘F’ and followed by the page number. 12 ‘Il est doux, il est bon’. 13 This aria does not form part of Hérodiade’s initial version, but was added to the La Scala production in 1882 (Huebner 40). 14 Class notes of Charles Koechlin (1867–1950), cited in Huebner (40). 15 Marie-Magdeleine was first staged as an oratorio; the scenic version’s debut was in 1903. Renan’s La vie de Jésus is also considered one of the main influences on Flaubert’s Hérodias (Flaubert 1973). 16 In ancient Jewish civilisation, a woman’s hair is believed to hold a strong erotic attraction, which is why ultra-Orthodox and married Jewish women shave their heads and wear wigs (Rowden 2001). 17 Although Phanuel warns Antipas that ‘the misery increases as told by the prophecy’ (M: II, 1), and Antipas asks John if it is true that ‘the people is stirred up by your prophecy’ (M: III, 2), it is in the opera not clear what this prophecy is about. Moreover, a prophecy similar to the one quoted above does not appear in Hérodiade. References Abbate , Carolyn. Unsung Voices: Opera and Musical Narrative in the Nineteenth Century . Princeton, NJ : Princeton UP , 1991 . Bertrand , M . “Parole et silence dans les Trois contes de Flaubert.” Stanford French Review 1 . 2 ( 1977 ): 191 – 203 . 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Adaptation – Oxford University Press
Published: Apr 8, 2019
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