Visiting professor Susan McClary to speak about biblical story of Salome

Trotter Visiting Professor Susan McClary
Trotter Visiting Professor Susan McClary

Author and music professor Susan McClary, of Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, will visit the University of Oregon on May 22 to deliver a talk about the different portrayals of the biblical story of Salome.

The free public event will take place at 3:15 p.m. in the Collier House on campus.

Titled “Salome in the Court of Queen Christina,” McClary’s talk will explore the representation of Salome in plays and operas. Both playwright Oscar Wilde and composer Richard Strauss depict her as manipulative and overtly sexual, using her risqué dancing to order John the Baptist beheaded. When she kisses the decapitated head, King Herod II (her stepfather) orders her killed in disgust.

However, an earlier version of Salome — from Alessandro Stradella’s 15th century work composed for Queen Christina of Sweden, titled “San Giovanni Battista,” or “John the Baptist,” manages to triumph at the end of the opera. Her success was an acknowledgement of the power of her sexuality and a nod to the Swedish queen, who was often seen as a symbol of female empowerment.

McClary’s talk will include performance excerpts from Stradella’s score, interspersed between her research and analysis on femme fatales who, like Stradella’s Salome, commanded the opera stage from the 17th century to the 19th century.

McClary is best known for her authorship of “Feminine Endings: Music, Gender, and Sexuality,” a book that examines how musical productions from the 17th century through modern day chart-toppers  represent gender and the body.

McClary’s visit to the UO campus is facilitated by the university’s interdisciplinary THEME Colloquium. She has been honored as a 2015 Trotter Visiting Professor by the UO School of Music and Dance.

—By Nathaniel Brown, Public Affairs Communications intern