If tonight's Met performance of Salome was not the event of the season, it's going to be one heck of a season.
Given that (per commenters here, at least) Patrick Summers was, in fact, a legitimate last-minute health replacement in the pit, it stands to reason that he would be below par in the first performances. And while previous engagements have me doubting that his "par" in Strauss is up to, say, Christian Thielemann's, it appears that it's not as low as the level of this run's beginning either.
Tonight for the first time the key orchestral passages were given real space and independent life: the interlude after the Salome-Jokanaan confrontation, the Dance -- finally given its erotic perfume in sound -- and most of all the accompaniment to the last scene, where the echoes and transformations of Salome's earlier lines (to the live Jokanaan) sang out with the terrible implacable longing with which Karita Mattila first uttered them. Previous outings have been fairly leaden until this finale, but not this one.
Perhaps now comfortable with Summers as well as prompter Donna Racik, Mattila too seems more free, even more energized (if, in the dance, more relaxed) and willing to go out on a limb for the moment. But the most memorable touch this time, which gave the last scene a coherence to which even last week's more "demented" performance couldn't compare, was small. Just as she noticed the prophet's closed dead eyes and started questioning him (well, his severed head) thereon: a tiny gesture and inflection in the voice as she began, just as a youth familiarly addressing her doll. Perfect, and perfectly awful.
It may have been better than any of the Gergiev shows I saw in 2004.
UPDATE (10/9): Incidentally, unlike last season's pre-moviecast performances, there were no flying cameras test-driving the video feed to the distraction of those attending this particular show.
UPDATE 2 (10/9): Sieglinde was there, and had a similar reaction. (Though the big simulcast -- with, unfortunately, limited dance exposure -- is this weekend.)