Thursday, October 16, 2008

Salome in HD

10:00am is surely too early in the day for Strauss's gorgeous & sickening Salome, but I was at the Century Theater in the Westfield Mall early Saturday morning for the Met HD Broadcast starring Karita Mattila. The theater was nearly full. I took a seat at the top of the auditorium next a woman who industriously occupied her time before the show with a knitting project. There's no intermission for this opera, but the broadcast opened with a little gag featuring Deborah Voigt knocking on Mattila's dressing room door to see if she had any words for us before the show. We also got an interesting glimpse of Matilla on stage just before the curtain goes up, stretching her lower back like an athlete.

Mattila never convinced me she was a teenager, but she impressed with her strength, her forceful voice, & her total identification with the role. She's believable even when enacting the character's most outrageous behavior. The impact of her performance comes from its physicality as much as anything else. She can do the splits while trying to seduce Herod into her evil bargain. Her dance of the 7 veils is an uninhibited strip tease. A small group in the movie theater audience applauded when her 2 male partners pulled down her pants with their teeth. She even did pole dancing moves.

However, the broadcast cheated us out of her nude scene. At the climax of the dance, we saw Mattila remove her top & then turn around with only her arms covering her breasts, but the camera immediately cut away so that we did not see her topless as the Met audience did. I thought this was unnecessarily prudish. I can't see how the sight of Mattila's breasts for 1 second can be deemed more inappropriate than the sight of her smooching a decapitated head.

The Met orchestra led by Patrick Summers sounded brilliant. All the other performers gave excellent singing/acting performances. I liked Kim Begley's middle-aged, sybaritic Herod & Ildikó Komlósi's cynical Herodias.

The action takes place in a fancy lobby where a non-stop cocktail party seems to be taking place. Jochanaan's cistern is in a crack running through the floor. Sinister looking angels appear at the end, overlooking the action, but I wasn't clear what was going on with them. The costumes were all over the place. Salome is a platinum blond in a Marilyn Monroe dress. The page looks like a soldier from the Middle East. The executioner was a sleek & muscular African warrior. The two Nazarenes were black southern evangelists, dressed in white suits. One of them seems to possess a powerful bass voice.

Strauss is not a favorite composer of mine, but I was glad to have the chance to see that the stir caused by Karita in this role is indeed well-deserved.

P.S. Before the broadcast, they showed previews of the Dr. Atomic broadcast. The production looks very different & more visually interesting than the one that premiered here in 2005.


The Opera Tattler said...

I'm sad to have missed this and thank you for writing a review.

Axel Feldheim said...

Thanks for reading. Don't despair. I'm sure that this production will appear on tv or be released on DVD someday.