Although the Met’s Salome was recorded as recently in 2008, the viewer will immediately be struck by how different the cinematography feels in comparison with more recent productions. The Live in HD broadcasts were still a relative novelty five years ago, and how best to convey the operatic experience to those in the movie theatres was still being worked out. In Salome, the camera-work feels overdirected and distracting: there are gratuitous cuts and zoom effects, and too many extreme close-ups, all giving the impression that technological capacity rather than artistic sensibility was driving the director’s decisions. The behind-the-curtain foray at the start, showing Karita Mattila walking to her starting position (with much hugging and toi-toi-ing en route) was disconcerting, too brief to justify breaching the fourth wall.

Jürgen Flim’s production footnotes the Biblical setting through stylised sand-dunes on stage left, but otherwise freely amalgamated elements from different periods: Perspex walkways mingled with early 20th-century décor, and Narraboth was equipped with both curved dagger and pistol. The costumes were similarly eclectic: Jokannan was in a ragged tunic, the male guests were in tuxedos, and Salome began her striptease in a tailcoat. The stage direction was at times uninspiring: for instance, Herod and Herodias are trapped on stage throughout Mattila’s lengthy final monologue, slumped in uninvolved attitudes. The ending is a puzzle: Strauss directed that Salome be crushed under the weight of the soldiers’ shields, but in certain productions she is stabbed by the executioner instead. As the brutal final chords sounded here, Mattila was standing downstage, baring her collarbone to the audience, with the executioner still yards from her. Was this a challenge to the viewers to question why we might want Salome’s death?

For the character of Salome, Strauss wanted the impossible, “a sixteen-year-old Princess with the voice of Isolde”. Karita Mattila, unquestionably one of the finest modern-day exponents of the role, certainly has the vocal chops: she was rock solid throughout, with exquisite high notes, and impressive plunges beneath the stave when called for. Although there were moments early on where her kittenish ways jarred (she was, after all, three times the age Strauss had in mind for his heroine), the characterisation was physical and committed: she pawed at Narraboth, wrestled with Jokanaan, and during the Dance of the Seven Veils, which she bravely took on herself, she even twerked one of the Jews. At the end of the Dance, when the topless Mattila (presumably) bared all, the camera prudishly cut away to Herod’s reaction. Mattila really came into her own in the final song to the severed head: despite the heavy singing beforehand, she sounded glorious in this most intense of scenes.

The other standout in the cast is Mattila’s compatriot Juha Uusitalu, who played Jokanaan. A formidable physical and vocal presence, he matched his would-be seductress glare for glare, and was more than capable of shrugging off her physical importunities. Joseph Kaiser’s enamoured Narraboth did well enough to make me regret his early demise. Kim Begley missed out on the febrile quality of Herod: in his panicked moments he resembled an inn-keeper who had forgotten to charge a customer rather than a lust-crazed psychopath. Ildikó Komlósi had the right timbral quality for Herodias, but was at times somewhat approximate in pitching. The minor roles were generally well sung. The orchestra, under Patrick Summers, was magnificent, providing the opulent sweep that is so crucial to this decadent masterpiece.