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Introduction

Finnish soprano Karita Mattila caused a sensation when she sang Salome at the Met for the first time in 2004, stunning the opera world with her interpretation of Richard Strauss’ fabled biblical princess. Wonderful news for fans – musical and TV – is her return to the role Saturday, January 17 at noon (ET) on Great Performances at the Met (check local listings). Patrick Summers leads the orchestra and strong supporting cast in Jürgen Flimm’s provocative modern-dress production.

Presented by THIRTEEN in 5.1 digital surround sound on PBS HD, Mattila’s portrayal proves both shattering and thrilling. “She is mesmerizing in her seductive Dance of the Seven Veils,” wrote The New York Times. “And her singing of the final scene is a tour de force of depraved eroticism and rapturous lyricism. A landmark for the Met.”

Based on Oscar Wilde’s notorious play about the wild-child royal who danced for Herod in return for the beheading of John the Baptist, Salome (1905) is the work that put its German composer on the operatic map. Strauss’ daring harmonic innovations, psychologically complex characters and shimmering orchestration set the tone for the stage masterworks to follow, including Elektra (1909), Der Rosenkavalier (1911), Die Frau Ohne Schatten (1919), and, to a degree, even his autumnal Capriccio (1942).

Joining Mattila in the telecast are fellow Finn, bass-baritone Juha Uusitalo, in the role of Jochanaan (John the Baptist), Hungarian mezzo-soprano Ildikó Komlósi as Salome’s treacherous mother, Herodias, and British tenor Kim Bagley as Herod, Salome’s step-father.

Great Performances at the Met: Salome, the second of 11 productions set for airing this season on the series, is sung in German with English surtitles. Hedwig Lachmann wrote the libretto, adapted from Wilde’s 1891 play. Barbara Willis Sweete directs for television; Jay Saks is audio producer.

Sets and costumes are by Santo Loquasto, with lighting by James F. Ingalls and choreography by Doug Varone. Salome was transmitted onstage as part of The Met: Live in HD series on October 11, 2008 and recorded for this telecast.

Great Performances is funded by the Irene Diamond Fund, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, public television viewers, and PBS. Corporate support for Great Performances at the Met is provided by Toll Brothers.