Karita Mattila is nothing less than mind-blowing as the Judean princess Salome. Her acting is so multi-faceted that you are riveted by this hideous character. And her singing - amazing! gorgeous! powerful! The singing & acting of the other performers is also fantastic. This production changed what I thought opera could be - not just romantic tragedies but also electrifying thrillers.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
Earlier Would Have Been BetterJan. 31 2011
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This new release of Salome will do little to appease those of us tho have been waiting for a release of the 2004 staging. Rumor had it that the earlier production had been taped. Perhaps this was never the case, but the internet being what it is many of us had assumed that it was only a matter of time. I did not see it but did hear the production on the radiio; it was quite exciting and Mattila was thrilling. I missed the 2008 HD release ini theatres and didn't listen to the broadcast.
If there is an earlier taping extant with the release of this later revival it is unlikely that the 2004 edition will see the light of day--a pity. I can only echo most of what Ivy Lin has already written. The camera is cruel in the close ups of Mattila. In the house this probably would not be a problem, but in HD it does no favors for the diva. She has retained her figure and is able to wear a dress that would not look out of place in a thirties movie. Vocally four years have robbed the voice of much of the freshness that was evident in 2004 and her low notes are almost growled.
The rest of the cast surely does not represent a major house at its best. The Jochannan, Juha Uusutalo, sounded underpowered and parched whether from the cistern (I assume electronic assistance was used) or on stage. Neither did he command the sort of charisma physically that one associates with this role. Herod has frequently been the home of aging heldentenors but Kim Begley (to the best of my knowledge) has not had a career in Wagner. Even so the sounds that he emits are not steady nor are they mellifluous. More egregious is the singing of Ildiko Komlosi. Painful is the only adjective that comes to mind.
Patrick Summers is not a name that I would have associated with Strauss but can I blame the recording engineers as well? As Ivy Lin has pointed out there is none of the sensuousness that one associates with Strauss. At a number of points I had to reduce the volume, only to increase it at a later point. Admittedly this is not the only DVD to be found guilty of this, but surely by now recording engineers should have resolved the problem. True the house erupted in cheers and bravos and I suspect being there made some difference as to how the sound was perceived.
I have resisted all the previous existing Salome DVD's for a variety of reasons. The Stratas is a film, but right now it is looking better all the time. Malfitano has two tapings and the supporting casts are clearly superior to this new entry; the diva not only has to deal with the camera as an enemy, she has a tendency to overact in the manner of the silent film era. The German Nadja Michael has also made two tapings but she has a voice that does not caress the ear and is willing to throw caution to the winds and go for broke dramatically. The results can be exciting on occasionn but one wonders for how long can she sing this music--any music? Maria Ewing created a mild sensation when she sang her first Salome in Los Angeles and then took it to London where it was taped. By that time the role had taken its toll on her voice and all that was left was a mannered performance. The void has yet to be filled.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Still gripping four years laterMay 16 2011
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I agree that it's too bad we do not have the 2004 performance, which I didn't see, so I can't compare it to this one. But I was in the audience at this performance, and it was absolutely gripping. You couldn't turn your head away from Karita Matilla, even when others were singing. She was in constant motion, feline, playful, a little out of control. When she stripped, it was more sensual live than what comes across with this camerawork. At the climactic moment, I have to confess I had my opera glasses trained on her, and believe me, her body is still quite beautiful. As for her singing, I felt that the warmth of her more mature voice, together with the slight strain at the top, just added to the intensity of her performance. This strange guy (Jochanan) just drove her out of her mind, making her go far beyond where a spoiled brat princess should go. I felt the Jochanan was good, but I agree, it would have been better if he were more physically attractive, as I've seen in other productions. Kim Begley as Herod sang very clearly (I could understand much of his German), with much less barking than in other productions. Herodias was a bit over the top, but it worked. As for the orchestra, I very much liked the sound on this dvd, although it can never sound as good as it did in the house. As others have pointed out, none of the available dvd versions is perfect, so just enjoy what's good about each of them (if you have the time and the money!).
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
A SALOME FOR THE AGES.June 8 2013
Alfredo R. Villanueva
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I was lucky to have been there in the Spring of 2004 when this production was unveiled with Karita Mattila, and remember being mesmerized by it. Four years later it was revived, and I was lucky for it to have been taped. In both, Mattila is absolutely incandescent, a real force of nature. On film, I own the Stratas who, of course, is perfect for the role, and I do like the secondary characters better. On record, though many sopranos excel in the last scene (just think of Leontyne Price) my favorite complete recording is Caballe's. Interestingly, I found the NYT reviews for both of Mattila's performances, both by the same reviewer, four years apart, utilizing almost the identical terms. For those interested in the life and career of this magnificent soprano, search for her on Wikipedia. Juha Usitalo makes for an estentorious if ungainly Jochanaan, but Kim Bagely and Idiko Komlosi are a bit too tame for Herod and Herodias.Joseph Kaiser shows off a lovely voice as Narraboth, and Patrick Summers shines in the pit.
10 of 13 people found the following review helpful
BELIEVABLE LOOKING WITH THE RIGHT VOICE FOR THE ROLEJan. 29 2011
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Strauss' decadent opera Salome has always posed a major problem in casting the lead character of Salome herself. Either you get a soprano that has "the voice" for the role (i.e., can "ride" Strauss' orchestra) but is not physically believable in the role (i.e. a little chunky and too matronly to be a young "sex kitten") OR a soprano is cast that is slim, trim and considered to be believable as desirable BUT with a voice unable to meet the vocal demands of the role (I.e.. battle Strauss' orchestra and able to plummet into the low notes of the role) Karita Mattila possesses BOTH requirements of the role. She has a voice that is well able to ride Strauss' orchestra and ride it she does with gleaming tones able to soar to the stratosphere one moment and plunge to the depths the next--the extreme range of the role seem to hold no terrors for her PLUS she is physically believable-- she plays the very demanding little "sex starved" young girl very well--so flirtatious and playful.
This production is not set in biblical times but, I suppose it is considered a modern production being set in what I think is the 1930s. Whenever, I enjoyed it, to me, it really works very well for this opera. All of the secondary roles are well done. I especially enjoyed "bosomy" and drunk Ildiko Komlosi as Herodias. However, I must say, that Karita's performance simply knocked me out; she is fantastic on this DVD. I am so glad that they taped Karita Mattila as Salome because after seeing this DVD, I feel that she truly is the Salome of our age.
In case you are wondering, Karita manages to do a very discreet but sensual "dance". From what I understand, this filmed version of the "dance" was altered for PBS in order to avoid it being censored because originally, Karita stripped "all the way". In this DVD, Mattila remains partially clothed throughout the entire dance but still manages to be alluring.
By the way, the sound and picture on this Sony DVD is great,
5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Reposted from Superconductor: "The Finnish Flash"Feb. 12 2011
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The Metropolitan Opera has released this fine 2008 performance of Richard Strauss' Salome as part of a Sony series of Met Live in HD broadcasts, now available on DVD and Blu-Ray. Karita Mattila is the title role--the princess of Judea who does the most famous strip-tease in history in exchange for the head of Jokaanan (John the Baptist.)
The Finnish soprano is a slinky, blonde force of nature in this production, soaring to Strauss' glittering vocal peaks and meeting all the physical challenges of the role. Playful at first, monstrous at the end, her Salome is a little girl gone very wrong. And yes, she does the Dance of the Seven Veils herself, although the camera cuts away (to a thrilled Herod) at the moment when she bares all.
The object of her desire is fellow Finn Juha Uusitalo. This is a voice and star in development. His rich, dark bass has resonance and power, and much potential. However, his Jokaanan sounds better when echoing out of the cistern. He produces a vibrato which grows more pronounced as the role goes on, and is most noticeable when Jokaanan curses Salome. Kim Begley is a reliable, experienced Herod in the late stages of his career. Ildikó Komlóski is a large-voiced, if unsteady Herodias. Joseph Kaiser displays a fine, light tenor as Narraboth.
Ms. Mattila's finest moments come after the Veils, when she floats her first "den kopf des Jokaanan" with a pianissimo high note, then plunging into the depths for the sprechstimme phrases where she demands the head. She turns on the power in the final scene, singing to the severed head with warmth and passion, scaling those forbidding high notes in a fearless performance. Jürgen Flimm's production re-imagines the work as a cocktail party at the end of the world, against a backdrop of 20th century doo-wop archictecture. A scaffold and mine-shaft splits the middle of the stage. From this, a rusted, metal dumb-waiter arises, revealing the bound, blindfolded, and later, beheaded Jokaanan--without his body. This is an effective moment.
This was an early Live in HD effort, and the opportunity to see this particular opera close-up (very close up) lends the drama a whole new dimension. It appears that the recording team was still learning where to put the microphones, and the singers' breathing is audible. (This is particularly disturbing when Ms. Mattila has kissed the bloody head.) The Metropolitan Opera Orchestra is in exceptional form, led by Patrick Summers in a bravura performance.