R Strauss: Salome

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

WORKS: Salome
PERFORMER: Karita Mattila, Kim Begley, Ildikó Komlósi, Juha Uusitalo, David Won, Joseph Kaiser, Lucy Schaufer, Keith Miller, Richard Bernstein, Reveka Evangelia Mavrovitis, Kim Begley, Allan Glassman, Marke Schowalter, Adam Klein etc; Metropolitan Opera Chorus, Ballet & Orchestra/Patrick Summers; dir. Jürgen Flimm (New York, 2008)
CATALOGUE NO: 88697806639

This New York Met production of Strauss’s lurid drama was filmed in 2008, the year Covent Garden in London presented David McVicar’s alarming but highly effective staging. If only Covent Garden had been able to cast Karita Mattila, today’s top Salome, then there would have been an ideal match between singer and production. As it is, we here have Mattila giving her all in a Met staging that shows little evidence of matching her commitment to the drama (while the Covent Garden production, as available on an Opus Arte DVD, has a pitch-problematic heroine in Nadja Michael). Santo Loquasto’s set for the Met, good in its components, fails to cohere, at least as filmed here; the horrid Herods, strongly sung by Kim Begley and Ildiko Komlosi, are dull suburbanites. 
It all gets off to a good start with the best and handsomest ever love-struck Narraboth (Joseph Kaiser, also in the Royal Opera production), though Mattila is at first a little too demented for the subsequent havoc wrought on her by ranting Jokanaan to have its proper effect, and the dance is a mess, pure jokey striptease with none of the threat behind it that the music demands (no breast shot at the end, either – this went out as a matinee broadcast). She does sound ideally young and silvery, though, with an impressive, sometimes scary chest voice to match the last great Salome, Hildegard Behrens. Juha Uusitalo’s prophet is a powerful brute until he suddenly shows sensitivity in his Sea of Galilee monologue. Patrick Summers paces well down in the pit, though it’s not an over-refined or magical account.
No, the thing’s the Liebestod, where Mattila pulls all the stops out in expressing the heroine’s crazy longing like no other Salome I’ve seen. It’s a shame the cameras are so fidgety here; all you really need is focus on our doomed heroine. David Nice