Publicado en Mundoclasico.com (ISSN 1886-0605) el 19/03/2004

A very sexy strip–tease

Por Luis Gutiérrez Ruvalcaba
Nueva York, 15/03/2004. Metropolitan Opera House. Richard Strauss's 'Salome'. Karita Mattila (Salome). Larissa Diadkova (Herodias). Allan Glassman (Herod). Matthew Polenzani (Narraboth). Albert Dohmen (Jokanaan). Metropolitan Opera House Choir and Orchestra. Valery Gergiev, conductor. Production: Jürgen Flimm. Set and Costume Designer: Santo Loquasto. Lighting Designer: James F. Ingalls. Choreographer: Doug Varone. New Production Premiere
The new production of ‘Salome’ at the Metropolitan Opera ended with a lying down ‘Salome’ waiting, senseless, for the executioner to fulfill the order of the ‘Tetrarch’. This end was accompanied by a thunderous applause to the protagonist, and I want to think, to the conductor and the orchestra, and with a mix of applause, bravos, and booing to the production team.Karita Mattila was a splendid ‘Salome’. I don’t care, as is the case of some people, if her voice is not loud. She has the ability to project her voice over an orchestra of one hundred and five instruments, and not only that, but always on pitch, always with good diction, and always transmitting her feelings. But her qualities are not only vocal; she is a totally committed actress that understand that opera is not concert or recital, it has to be enacted. Even if she normally has no overweight, she lost some kilos to manage not only a very athletic performance, but to very credible when culminating her obsession, and Herod’s. She didn’t dance the seven veils dance, instead she made a very sexy strip–tease. She made me remember those very wild days of the sixties, when I was awakening to this world and was fascinated by dames that used to perform wearing exotic names, and nothing else, such as Princess Xtabay, not the actual, almost prophylactic, pole and lap dancing.Valery Gergiev had a terrific night. He was in command the whole night. He was obsessive with the obsessions. Since the initial arpeggio of the clarinets everything was lust and power in the pit. I can’t explain how, but the sound of the orchestra was really exotic and sensuous during the strip–tease. Tonight I realized how great this orchestra is.The opera was located not in 30 A.D., but in the 1920’s or 1930’s, in an country in the Middle East occupied by the Powers of the time, the ‘Tetrarch’, family, henchmen, and others, belonging to the occupiers. Luckily there were no occupied people on stage. The costumes of ‘Salome’, first a white gown (was this the absent moon?) in the manner of Jean Harlow, then a smoking like la Dietrich in Morocco, then nothing for a nanosecond, and then a black robe were very well thought. In my not so humble opinion the production team of Jurgen Flimm, Santo Loquasto, James F. Ingalls and Doug Varone did an outstanding job. If a part of the audience booed was also great, because that is also part of opera: to boo anything different than we think should be. I found brilliant the presence, almost all of the time of the death angel, represented by several winged creatures dressed in black, such as the dress of the touaregs.Albert Dohmen had a very auspicious debut as ‘Jochanaan’. His baritone is beautiful and powerful, and he also was able to convey his obsession in regards the coming of the Messiah. Allan Glassman may not be a star, but had a very good performance as ‘Herod’. His voice has that edge that makes of the ‘Tetrarch’ the villain of the opera. And he was also able to convey his obsessions, and lust of her step–daughter. Matthew Polenzani was also good, being probably the most obsessive of all the characters.To this humble aficionado, this production is almost an unqualified success. I used the adverb almost for two reasons, one musical and one theatrical, and I believe both important. The musical was the lack of presence, and I was close to say total absence, of a character: Larissa Diadkova, a singer I normally like, was a non entity as ‘Herodias’. The theatrical was the absence of an ever present in text and score element, the sometimes pale, sometimes bright, and sometimes blooded moon.