Articles

The Stories of the Sinful Women

People have been realizing the frailties in their deeds since the dawn of time but these were only described as sins in the Bible and the myths. The very first offence against the God's word was the cause of the expulsion from paradise, even though it remains uncertain whether eating fruit from the Tree of Knowledge really was a sin. From 243 biblical references the word sin first appears in Genesis [4.7] in the Lord's words to Cain: "If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it. " And four times afterwards. In the last reference, sin is accompanied by an appeal for forgiveness [50.17]. However, not everyone is able to gain control of their sins and reach forgiveness.

[1] the New Testament sinner from Massenet's oratorio in three acts Marie-Magdeleine awaits by the well in front of the Magdalene's Gate the one who promised her to come again: Jesus. Unlike other loose women, here Mary Magdalene – Méryen – in the aria "O mes soeurs" rejects her former life. She is full of remorse and longs for redemptory hope of God's mercy. Later on, she meets Jesus and accepts him humbly in her home. In the last part, after crucifiction of Jesus, she is present in amazement at his miraculous resurrection.

[2] In the big opera by Saint-Saëns Samson and Delilah (Samson et Dalila) the Philistine priestess Delilah lures the Old Testament hero of Israel, Samson, who has subjugated the Philistines, into her house. She wants to find out the secret of his power. Samson guilelessly expresses his passion for Delilah's beauty and she draws him even deeper into her malicious lure in the aria "Mon coeur s'ouvre a ta voix". She pretends to open her heart like a flower in the morning sun and forces Samson to promise to be faithful to her. She softens Samson's heart but betrays him the next minute: he is blinded and shackled.

[3] The Philistines then – in the same opera – celebrate their victorious day by a wild "Bacchanale". After a sensual, unbridled dance they bring Samson who, although handcuffed, pulls down the pillars of the temple by his strength and everybody dies in its ruins.

[4] The main character of Massenet's opera based on the novella by Flaubert – Hérodiade – the wife of the biblical king Herod, is jealous of her daughter Salomé for her sensuality and beauty. Hérodiade also hates the prophet John the Baptist whom Salomé admires. With the intention to humiliate her daughter as much as she could, Hérodiade demands Herod has the prophet executed. In the aria "Ne me refuse pas" she makes up to Herod, abusing her own seductiveness, and she is sure she will get her way.

[5] In the opera-oratorio Oedipus Rex by Stravinsky in the Sophocles' story from the ancient Greek Thebes, there is a part of Jocasta, the widow of a murdered king. In the aria "Nonn' erubescite, reges" she refuses to believe the prophecy. She jests at the ancient vaticination in dark sneers as she does not know how cruelly truthful the prophecy was: that Jocasta's own son Oidipus – unknowingly – murdered his father and married his own mother. Tragedy is inevitable. Oidipus blinds himself to accept the fate of an exile with the darkest qualms and Jocasta commits suicide.

[6] The ancient enchantress and main character of Médeé – Cherubini's opera based on Euripides – helped the Greek hero Jason gain the golden fleece. However, after giving birth to Jason's sons, Jason is enticed away by another woman, the daughter of the King of Corinth. Médeé cursed Jason for that and by contrivance killed his lover. Now she is loosing power over her senses: she has decided to kill her and Jason's children. In the aria "Del fiero duol che il cor mi frange" she pleads to gods before the terrible deed to calm her eerie senses and give her strength not to harm her children. Yet she pleads in vain. She fulfills her depraved plan.

[7] The mysterious girl Kundry appears in Wagner's interpretation of the Germanic version of the myth of the Arthurian knight Parzival. She has brought a healing remedy from far away but fell prey to the fiend Klingsor and shared his evil intention to destroy Parsifal by sinful seduction. In the aria "Ich sah' das Kind" Kundry approaches Parsifal by recollecting the memory of his mother. Under a false pretense she kisses Parsifal but does not have her way. Quite the contrary. Parsifal awakens from the intoxication and gains the power to work miracles. Kundry goes through atonement and is baptized.

[8] Strauss's Salome dances at call of king Herod after his promise he would grant her any wish. In the great scene of the "Dance of the seven veils" Salome gradually throws away all the seven veils covering her tantalizing beauty. She escalates her seven-part dance to ecstasy. After totally seizing Herod for herself she asks for the head of the imprisoned prophet Jochanaan – John the Baptist – on a silver tray.

[9] Clytemnestra, the ancient Queen of Mycenae, in the opera by the same composer – Elektra – succumbed to her lover and murdered her husband – the father of Electra – King Agamemnon. She is haunted by remorse every night. In her talk to Electra, "Ich habe keine guten Nächte", she confesses she is tortured by nocturnal phantoms and she would rather not live. However, illnesses keep away from her. She has no idea yet her son Orestes is about to come back and revenge the death of his father: Clytemnestra and her lover both die by the very axe that she killed her husband with.

[10] The third interpretation of the story of biblical Salomé comes back in the large "Final scene" that was set to music shortly before Strauss by Antoine Mariotte, based on the same Wilde's play. Salomé, the beautiful daughter of Herodiade and the step-daughter of King Herod got the head of the prophet Jochanaan – John the Baptist – through defiance. In a dreamy flush, she speaks to the head of the prophet. Herod is disgusted. Salomé kisses the prophet's dead lips and is duly punished. Herod orders that Salomé is killed.