Salome, in a live cinema screening from the Metropolitan Opera in New York, Oct 2008

Karita Mattila gave an excellent performance of the title role, and Juha Uusitalo was superb as John the Baptist, drawing deep power from mysterious sources. Kim Begley was a fine Herod, urbane yet discomforted and lustful, and Ildiko Komlosi was a strong Herodias, proud and scornful. Joseph Kaiser sang Narraboth, but the cinematic techniques, particularly at the start of the performance, failed to show the full stage, and made it impossible to see him in context. It also made it difficult to judge Jürgen Flimm’s production. Certainly it was far better than the absurd staging I saw at Covent Garden in February, where the party guests stood around uselessly as Salome went to her excesses near the end; in this production by contrast they evidently turned and left, but we couldn’t see this happen because of the obsession with close-ups of Salome, Herod and Herodias. It was as if one looked at the whole thing through opera glasses, missing the bigger picture, and while the costumes by Santo Loquasto were excellent, we could not fully see the sets that he also designed. Choreography by Doug Varone worked well and Karita Mattila did a good job of the dance and striptease. The conducting by Patrick Summers was powerful, and the accompaniment to John the Baptist, after he is brought up from the cistern, was riveting. One could only wish that one were in the opera house to see and hear this in its full glory.

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