Saw the Met's 2008 production of Salome at the Summer HD Festival last night. Really wanted to hear it after reading about the rapturous response of the audience to the opera's premiere in Alex Ross's book The Rest Is Noise, and after loving The Rosenkavelier heard at another Summer HD Festival.
Karita Mattila was an electrifying Salome. She was no girl, but her girlish manner was very much a part of her interpretation of the daughter of Herodias. In her depiction, Salome was a spoiled and wilful child of privilege, a seductress already confident of her alluring power over men. All of which made her attraction to Jochanaan, the desert prophet, so much more unlikely and yet inevitable. She must have what she could not have. Compared to the indecisive Herod (Kim Begley) and her washed-up mother (Ildikó Komlósi), Salome was unstoppable because she was willing to die to get what she wanted. As she sang, the mystery of love is stronger than the mystery of death.
Juha Uusitalo sang Jochanaan with winning sympathy. The music-writing helped here, giving the Biblical warnings and curses a shining grandeur. His virtue kept him safe from Salome, while he was still living. When she finally won her kiss, by gnawing at the lips of his decapitated head, she sang, "Ah! I have kissed it, I have kissed thy mouth; there was a bitter taste upon thy lips. ... But perhaps this was the taste of love."