This year, the Salzburg Festival features a new production of Richard Strauss’ Salome directed by Romeo Castellucci. The Italian director also conceived the whole design of the mise en scène.

Romeo Castellucci, Salome | Photo © Salzburger Festspiele / Ruth Walz
Romeo Castellucci, Salome | Photo © Salzburger Festspiele / Ruth Walz

Performed on the stage of the Felsenreitschule, Castellucci’s Salome uses no built scenographic elements. Important is the use of two main materials, stone and brass. The stony wall of the Felsenreitschule was made uniform by closing up all of the arcades, recreating the surface of the original quarry cliff. “The mountain goes back to being a mountain,” Castellucci says, where the bare power of stone reveals the “telluric power” of Salome.

Romeo Castellucci, Salome | Photo © Salzburger Festspiele / Ruth Walz
Romeo Castellucci, Salome | Photo © Salzburger Festspiele / Ruth Walz

The closed up arcades, that Castellucci associates with the idea of human mouths give a sense of suffocation. There is a lack of air, “all is heavy and cold.”

Romeo Castellucci, Salome | Photo © Salzburger Festspiele / Ruth Walz
Romeo Castellucci, Salome | Photo © Salzburger Festspiele / Ruth Walz

A counterpart to the stone wall is the mirror polished brass surface of the stage extending from side to side. From it, a shallow pool is cut out into which milk will be poured. For Castellucci, the golden tone of brass evokes the “richness of the Orient, the power” on one hand while on the other it can be seen as “a pot where bodies are cooked.”

Romeo Castellucci, Salome | Photo © Salzburger Festspiele / Ruth Walz
Romeo Castellucci, Salome | Photo © Salzburger Festspiele / Ruth Walz

The incumbent cliff and the metallic mass of the brass surface “both are weighty countering elements conceived to crush the only living body,” Castellucci says. “The body of Salome, who will be crushed by the soldiers’ shields.”

Salome is on stage until August 27 at the Salzburg Festival. Direction, sets, costumes and lighting by Romeo Castellucci with the collaboration of Silvia Costa (artistic collaboration), Alessio Vamori (sets), and Marco Giusti (lighting).