Strauss' Salome is one of the most eagerly anticipated opera productions of the season. Probably many Russian lovers of opera still recall the two Mariinsky Theatre productions of 1995 and 2000, staged on the initiative of Valery Gergiev by directors Julie Taymor and David Freeman. Not long before that, in 1989 Salome was presented during a tour to Leningrad by the Oper Stuttgart. That performance broke a sixty-year-long period of the lamentable absence of Strauss' works at the theatre, because in the 1920s the GATOB (today the Mariinsky) hosted performances of Salome and Der Rosenkavalier, while in 1913, four years after the premiere in Germany, Vsevolod Meyerhold staged Elektra here, the rehearsals being attended by the composer himself.
The Strauss repertoire of the Mariinsky Theatre today has been cultivated by Valery Gergiev's love of this music that is highly complex in terms of structure. In addition to Salome, the conductor has worked on a production of Elektra and the Russian premieres of the operas Die Frau ohne Schatten and Ariadne auf Naxos. A sound performance foundation of the new Salome is guaranteed by the casts announced, among them Musikdrama soloists Mlada Khudoley, Yevgeny Nikitin, Larisa Gogolevskaya and Andrei Popov as well as the promising young singers Elena Stikhina, Evgenia Muravieva, Lesya Alekseyeva and Alexander Mikhailov.
The new production will also intrigue through its unexpected directing and design decisions. Drama director Marat Gatsalov, for whom Salome marks his first work in opera, admits that "In our version of Salome it is not a story about a fornicatress who passionately desires Jokanaan. We see the collision of great ideas, between which the protagonists find themselves as if between a rock and a hard place. Salome's passionate desire to kiss Jokanaan is probably the desire to drown out the voice of new truth." Working with Gatsalov are designers from Latvia: set designer Monika Pormale and the design duo MAREUNROL'S, who have already created the elegant visual designs for Eugene Onegin at the Mikhailovsky Theatre. Also playing a major role in the production are the video graphics, which have been created by the experienced artist and set designer Katrīna Neiburga.