Salome by the numbers

348: Pages in the conductor’s score

106: Musicians in the orchestra

38: Curtain calls for the cast after the 1905 world premiere

16: Ideal age of the soprano performing Salome, per Strauss’ instructions

7: Veils removed by Salome during her salacious dance

1: Performances given by the Metropolitan Opera in 1907, after which the scandalized board of directors shut down the production

27: Years before the Metropolitan Opera performed Salome again

Quotes by and about Strauss 

• “Salome and Elektra should be conducted as if they were fairy music written by Mendelssohn.” — Richard Strauss

• “Oh, my god! Such nervous music. I feel like my pants are full of maybugs.” — Franz Strauss, Richard’s father, on first hearing Salome.

• After a critic described him as a second-rate composer, Strauss responded, “I may be a second-rate composer, but I am a first-class second-rate composer.”

• At one of the first orchestra rehearsals for Salome, which Strauss conducted, the principal oboist stopped playing and said, “Herr Doktor, this passage may have worked on the piano, but it can’t be played on the oboe,” to which Strauss replied, “Cheer up, man, it didn’t work on the piano either. Carry on!”

When Salome swept America

When the Metropolitan Opera shut down its Salome production in 1907 after one performance, Bianca Froehlich was out of a job but not out of ideas. She had been hired to perform the title character’s “Dance of the Seven Veils” while the more extensive soprano Olive Fremstad waited chastely in the wings.

Froehlich simply took her act downtown to the Lincoln Square Variety Theater, where the corresponding leap in ticket sales was noted by impresario Florenz Ziegfeld. He quickly added a Salome act starring the exotic “Mademoiselle Dazie” (Daisy Ann Peterkin, above) to his fledgling Follies of 1907. The show became a smash hit.

Ziegfeld’s Salome was Peterkin. She and her publicist husband opened a “School for Salomes” on the theater’s roof garden, where she taught 150 applicants monthly to undulate while holding a papier-mâché head of John the Baptist. Her students fanned out to theaters and vaudeville houses across the country and performed for years, while Ziegfeld’s Salome number was revived for more than a decade in his Follies productions.

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