Wednesday, October 01, 2008

SALOME or The Lick of Love

Our friend, Sam Shirakawa is enthusiastic about the new season's Salome . . .

Metropolitan Opera, September 23 and 26

The current run of Salome at the Met certainly has the lick... er... the look of love. Or Lust. Even if a little of Oscar Wilde's Nasty Nubile goes a long way for you, Strauss' incarnation -- with a little help from his librettist Hugo von Hofmanstahl -- was again a sensation at the Met.

From start to finish, it's Karita Matilla's show, and she leaves you begging for more. So I went back for more -- yup, two performances in a row, and I still couldn't get enough of her. Her Biblical Brat is so alluringly monstrous, that she has you suppressing morbid chuckles right from the get-go. Whether she's undulating her estrogen-laden body parts or slurping for testosterone from her beheaded boy-toy, Karita keeps you giddy.

So how did she sing? Put it this way: Karita riding the Met orchestra going full-tilt is a bit like stories of Queen Christina riding the throes of sexual hyperesthesia -- the apogee of unnatural ecstasy in either case.

Speaking of the orchestra, Patrick Summers stepped in at the last moment for Mikko Franck and stepped in proverbial Scheisse. With barely one orchestra rehearsal, he steered the Met band a league beyond its usual Olympian standard. Some fabulous playing, if you were paying attention, especially from the brass section. Listen to those trills among the horns on Salome's last words. Unbelievable!

Along the way -- a veil dance that left no birds in the bush -- neither in the pit nor on stage. Karita's revealing climactic moment -- front, center and full-frontal -- would surely have drawn a chuckle from the late and lamented Bob Fosse, who knew a thing or two about dirty dancing. Whether Doug Varrone's snazzy choreography will look as stylish when other less agile Salomes step up to the charger is cause for dread.

The rest of the cast keeps out of Karita's way. Kim Begley as Herod, Ildikó Komlósi as Herodias and Joseph Kaiser as Narraboth move around a lot in Jürgen Flimm's over-lighted production. They looked like they knew where they were going. Superb vocalism from all of them, but who noticed?

You couldn't avoid noticing Juha Uusitalo because the score gives Jokanaan so much space. In any other circumstance, the burly Finn would have aroused more excitement, but Jacques the Jesus Freak is a thankless role. Uusitalo is performing some Wagner in Washington later this month, where he will be better poised to showcase his estimable gifts.

It's a long march for the Met from now until May, but if Salome is a harbinger of things to come this season, some memorable performances are in store.

Sam H. Shirakawa

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