"You Look at her too much" Reading the Male Gaze in Contemporary Opera Performances of Richard Strauss’ Salome.
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With Salome’s famous ‘Dance of the Seven Veils’, the essential role of looking in the story and the libretto’s wordplay concerning ‘gazing’ and the visual senses, Richard Strauss’ Salome is one of the most salient examples of a canonical opera pervaded with the oppressive mechanism of the male gaze. The latter feminist concept, having been coined in film studies and applied in related fields such as literary studies, has generated a large body of feminist rewritings of canonical literary works, demonstrating artistic resistance to the male gaze and the dangerous consequences it entails. However, although canonical opera scores and libretti have been subjected to feminist criticism as well, the act of rewriting these texts from a feminist perspective is rarely undertaken. This thesis departs from the contention that operatic artistic resistance to the male gaze does not belong to the realm of rewriting, but that of rereading as a creative resource to critically reinvent canonical opera texts through performative elements on the contemporary operatic stage. By attending to opera’s performative elements through close reading, this thesis thus aims to explore the ways in which we can read critical dramaturgical and performative engagements with the male gaze and its dangerous implications in contemporary operatic performances of Richard Strauss’ Salome: Gabriele Lavia’s production for Teatro Comunale di Bologna (2010), Ivo Van Hove’s production for Dutch National Opera (2017) and Aïda Gabriëls’ new creation Dance of the Seven Veils for Toneelhuis (2021/2022).