Tag: Mattila

Karita Mattila / Alice Tully Hall 3-10-16

This was the best concert I have been to in months – exciting, beautifully rendered, balls-to-the-wall Lieder singing from the very first song. I had never heard Mattila live before, and I now wish I had more opportunities to do so – her voice is stunning. It’s bigger than I expected from recordings; part of me wished I had been able to sit closer to as to see more of her acting up close (I was in the back row of the balcony) but I think that aurally back center of the hall was perfect.

And it was so nice to go to a concert that does not consist of songs I have heard a thousand times before! Familiar material, but not too much so. The first set was Brahms’s Ziguenerlieder (Gypsy Songs). Mattila threw herself into these both vocally and physically; I realized when I opened my eyes somewhere around ‘Wißt ihr, wann mein Kindchen” that by not watching I was missing out.

I have heard Wagner’s Wesendonck Lieder a few times before, but I never listened to them with the same attention as I did last night. Among the high points here was the final song, “Träume,” (“Dreams”) which was spellbinding, from the moment the vocal line steps quietly out of the piano part until it sinks away again at the final lines of the text. Afterwards, I kept trying to put into words the feeling of when a song performance really clicks. I have a sense of being able to follow what is being expressed, even if it is in a language I don’t know, or don’t know well enough to understand every word; I also get an impression of the song, or at least the vocal line, holding itself together – there’s a feeling of wholeness. Whatever it was, and however you want to describe it, there was plenty of it in this concert.

After intermission, Mattila sang Berg’s Four Songs, Op. 2. The more I hear live performances of Berg’s songs, the more I like them. Here, with the first one, “Dem Schmerz sein Recht,” every note seemed to fall perfectly into place (I have in my notes “this just gets better and better”); the entire set was over far too quickly, and when we’d moved on to Strauss I wished for a moment that we could stay in Berg world for a while more.

Mattila’s stage presence is lively, funny and extremely energetic, and she certainly knows how to butter up her audience. She introduced her encore, a jazz (I think?) song called “Eine kleine Sehnsucht” with the observation that she had learned a new English word recently, “yearning,” and that this song perfectly expressed her yearning to come to New York again – “but in German, of course.” She delivered the song with the sort of style and sparkle that in retrospect I think Renée Fleming was going for in her similarly jazzy encore the other night, but didn’t (by comparison) quite nail. Mattila nailed it.

Karita Mattila / Arias & Scenes

519s7sYS8fLAs noted earlier, I opened this CD to find that it was signed, which was a most pleasant surprise. Given my luck this past week, I am tempted to purchase another copy of one or the other of my favorite recordings, just to see what would happen . . . though of course it doesn’t work that way.

But the real draw here is of course in what is on the recording itself. My neighbors (my apartment is a subdivided house) have moved away, leaving behind a grill and a potted plant that I intend to appropriate once I am sure they are well and truly gone, but more to the point, I can cause the walls of this building to vibrate with opera and no one is going to be bothered. And this is quite a good recording for wall-vibration purposes. I bought it because I enjoyed Mattila’s Elisabeth in the Théatre du Châtelet performance of Don Carlos that I listened to a while back, and I like this for many of the same reasons that I enjoyed that.

Some of the selections on this recording are familiar in the sense that I have heard the opera in question before (e.g. the sections of Wagner and Strauss) but the recital on the whole made me realize what a Handel-thru-Mozart-and-sometimes-Verdi rut I tend to run in most of the time. There is something to be said for listening to operas in languages that you understand not a word of, in my case, Russian or Czech. The scene from Janáček’s Jenufa was one of my favorite parts of this – and she’s recorded the whole thing, which may be next on my list.  But I am obliged to admit, I enjoyed the Puccini (“in quelle trine morbide” from Manon Lescaut) too. This recording is one of those that puts me in a ‘who cares what the text says’ mood; you can figure out the general drift of the selection from how it sounds and how it’s sung, and as with Don Carlos I found myself simply enjoying the sound of Mattila’s voice.

Verdi – Don Carlos / Théâtre du Châtelet 1996

Have you ever wondered what it would be like if Mel Gibson directed Don Carlos? I raise the question because in this version, directed for the Theatre du Chatelet by Luc Bondy, there is a moment in Posa’s death scene where I’m pretty sure I heard drops of the fake blood, of which there is plenty, land on the floor. But I am going to assume that this was just an accident of microphone placement. (To answer my initial question: I suspect that the auto-da-fe scene would somehow become much longer than it normally is and they would kill Posa with a spiked mace rather than a gun. This would also take much longer than is customary.)

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Deep thoughts about elk

I was listening to an older recording of Don Carlos, one from the Théâtre du Châtelet from 1995 (Van Dam – José, not Jean-Claude – as Philip, Roberto Alagna as Carlos, Karita Mattila as Elisabeth, Hampson singing Posa, and Pappano conducting.)

I have never heard a rendition of this where Elisabeth’s big high notes in “de quels transports poignants” (text, in either French or Italian: “Ah!!”) are so bright and gleamy and seem to come as effortlessly as they do here for Mattila. It’s really kind of perfect, like Elisabeth’s poor happy little teenaged soul is just shining in the air there for a second or two. Also, Waltraud Meier (Eboli) cheats a bit on some of the ornaments in “au palais des fées” but that slower middle section of “o don fatal” was pretty magic. See also Posa’s death scene. Some day I will have listened to every extant recording of this opera, and if each of them has one or two moments like this that make them distinct, then the time will not have been misspent. Either that or I will have been institutionalized. One or the other.

Another thing I learned today: apparently in Finnish there is a word specifically for a car accident involving elk. This has nothing to do with Verdi, but I wanted to get it out there.

Strauss – Salome / Met Opera 2008 (2)

(Previous section here.

vlcsnap-2013-09-22-10h53m17s66Everyone in this production (with the exception of Jochanaan, who is probably a teetotaler and an utter bore at parties) is more than a little drunk most of the time. There is plenty of wine in the libretto to begin with and the stage direction keeps the champagne flowing. Everyone wanders about with glasses and bottles in their hands, including Salome; the production suggests that she insists on the head at least in part because she’s drunk – the silly kid is allowed to booze it up with the adults, and this is part of the whole awful tawdry chain of events.

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Strauss – Salome / Met Opera 2008 (1)

Whenever I watch Salome on DVD I always end up looking away during the climactic moments. Not because I don’t want to see what is happening, but because I do want to hear, in detail, what is happening, and this is easier to do if you’re staring off into space rather than trying to also process visual information. Or at least it’s easier for me.

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Beethoven – Fidelio / Heppner, Mattila, Pape / Metropolitan Opera 2002 (3)

(Previous section here.)

So what does this sound like? I enjoyed Karita Mattila’s performance as Leonore – her voice here has a weight to it that contrasts very nicely with that of Jennifer Welch-Babidge as Marzelline. The latter sounded a little fluttery early in Act I, but by the first quartet she has warmed up and the sound is very pleasant. René Pape is not used to full advantage as Rocco – I know Pape can bring the big guns both vocally and in terms of acting and this role doesn’t quite give him the chance to do that. Ben Heppner as Florestan was appropriately heroic-sounding. The men’s chorus has some stirring moments during Act I – there’s some really nice chorus/orchestra interplay here (I noticed it during “O welche Lust”). Finally, remember that production of Mary Stuart from Houston a while back? The tenor singing Leicester in that instance, Eric Cutler, appears here as the First Prisoner. I don’t have much to say because he doesn’t have much to sing, but – well, there you are. I guess there really aren’t that many opera singers in the world, are there?

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