Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


facebook-icon.png


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780393088953.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Reviews

Fortepiano Schubert : Wigmore Hall

The Wigmore Hall complete Schubert song series continued with a recital by Georg Nigl and Andreas Staier. Staier's a pioneer, promoting the use of fortepiano in Schubert song. In Schubert's time, modern concert pianos didn't exist. Schubert and his contemporaries would have been familiar with a lighter, brighter sound. Over the last 30 years, we've come to better understand Schubert and his world through the insights Staier has given us. His many performances, frequently with Christoph Prégardien at the Wigmore Hall, have always been highlights.

Baroque at the Edge: London Festival of Baroque Music, 12-20 May 2017

On 9 January 2017 the London Festival of Baroque Music (formerly the Lufthansa Festival of Baroque Music) announced its programme for 2017. The Festival theme for 2017 is Baroque at the Edge. Inspired by the anniversaries of Monteverdi (450th of birth) and Telemann (250th of death) the Festival explores the ways that composers and performers have pushed at the chronological, stylistic, geographical and expressive boundaries of the Baroque era.

OPERA RARA AUCTION: online auction for opera lovers worldwide

On Thursday 19th January, opera lovers around the world started bidding online for rare and prized items made available for the first time from Opera Rara’s collection. In addition to the 26 lots auctioned online, 6 more items will be made available on 7 February - when online bidding closes - at Opera Rara’s gala dinner marking the final night of the auction. The gala will be held at London’s Caledonian Club and will feature guest appearances from Michael Spyres and Joyce El-Khoury.

MOZART 250: the year 1767

Classical Opera’s MOZART 250 project has reached the year 1767. Two years ago, the company embarked upon an epic, 27-year exploration of the music written by Mozart and his contemporaries exactly 250 years previously. The series will incorporate 250th anniversary performances of all Mozart’s important compositions and artistic director Ian Page tells us that as 1767 ‘was the year in which Mozart started to write more substantial works - opera, oratorio, concertos … this will be the first year of MOZART 250 in which Mozart’s own music dominates the programme’.

Monteverdi, Masters and Poets - Imitation and Emulation

‘[T]hey moderated or increased their voices, loud or soft, heavy or light according to the demands of the piece they were singing; now slowing, breaking of sometimes with a gentle sigh, now singing long passages legato or detached, now groups, now leaps, now with long trills, now with short, or again, with sweet running passages sung softly, to which one sometimes heard an echo answer unexpectedly. They accompanied the music and the sentiment with appropriate facial expressions, glances and gestures, with no awkward movements of the mouth or hands or body which might not express the feelings of the song. They made the words clear in such a way that one could hear even the last syllable of every word, which was never interrupted or suppressed by passages or other embellishments.’

Visionary Wagner - The Flying Dutchman, Finnish National Opera

An exceptional Wagner Der fliegende Holländer, so challenging that, at first, it seems shocking. But Kasper Holten's new production, currently at the Finnish National Opera, is also exceptionally intelligent.

Don Quichotte at Chicago Lyric

A welcome addition to Lyric Opera of Chicago’s roster was its recent production of Jules Massenet’s Don Quichotte.

Written on Skin: Royal Opera House

800 years ago, every book was a precious treasure - ‘written on skin’. In George Benjamin’s and Martin Crimp’s 2012 opera, Written on Skin, modern-day archivists search for one such artefact: a legendary 12th-century illustrated vanity project, commissioned by an unnamed Protector to record and celebrate his power.

Madama Butterfly at Staatsoper im Schiller Theater

It was like a “Date Night” at Staatsoper unter den Linden with its return of Eike Gramss’ 2012 production of Puccini’s Madama Butterfly. While I entered the Schiller Theater, the many young couples venturing to the opera together, and emerging afterwards all lovey-dovey and moved by Puccini’s melodramatic romance, encouraged me to think more positively about the future of opera.

It’s the end of the world as we know it: Hannigan & Rattle sing of Death

For the Late Night concert after the Saturday series, fifteen Berliners backed up Barbara Hannigan in yet another adventurous collaboration on a modern rarity with Simon Rattle. I was completely unfamiliar with the French composer, but the performance tonight made me fall in love with Gérard Grisey’s sensually disintegrating soundscape Quatre chants pour franchir le seuil, or “Fours Songs to cross the Threshold”.

A Vocally Extravagant Saturday Night with Berliner Philharmoniker

One of the things I love about the Philharmonie in Berlin, is the normalcy of musical excellence week after week. Very few venues can pull off with such illuminating star wattage. Michael Schade, Anne Schwanewilms, and Barbara Hannigan performed in two concerts with two larger-than-life conductors Thielemann and Rattle. We were taken on three thrilling adventures.

Les Troyens at Lyric Opera of Chicago

Lyric Opera of Chicago’s original and superbly cast production of Hector Berlioz’s Les Troyens has provided the musical public with a treasured opportunity to appreciate one of the great operatic achievements of the nineteenth century.

Merry Christmas, Stephen Leacock

The Little Opera Company opened its 21st season by championing its own, as it presented the world premiere of Winnipeg composer Neil Weisensel’s Merry Christmas, Stephen Leacock.

Bampton Classical Opera 2017

In 2015, Bampton Classical Opera’s production of Salieri’s La grotta di Trofonio - a UK premiere - received well-deserved accolades: ‘a revelation ... the music is magnificent’ (Seen and Heard International), ‘giddily exciting, propelled by wit, charm and bags of joy’ (The Spectator), ‘lively, inventive ... a joy from start to finish’ (The Oxford Times), ‘They have done Salieri proud’ (The Arts Desk) and ‘an enthusiastic performance of riotously spirited music’ (Opera Britannia) were just some of the superlative compliments festooned by the critical press.

The nature of narropera?

How many singers does it take to make an opera? There are single-role operas - Schönberg’s Erwartung (1924) and Eight Songs for a Mad King by Peter Maxwell Davies (1969) spring immediately to mind - and there are operas that just require a pair of performers, such as Rimsky-Korsakov’s Mozart i Salieri (1897) or The Telephone by Menotti (1947).

A Christmas Festival: La Nuova Musica at St John's Smith Square

Now in its 31st year, the 2016 Christmas Festival at St John’s Smith Square has offered sixteen concerts performed by diverse ensembles, among them: the choirs of King’s College, London and Merton College, Oxford; Christchurch Cathedral Choir, Oxford; The Gesualdo Six; The Cardinall’s Musick; The Tallis Scholars; the choirs of Trinity College and Clare College, Cambridge; Tenebrae; Polyphony and the Orchestra of the Age of the Enlightment.

Fleming's Farewell to London: Der Rosenkavalier at the ROH

As 2016 draws to a close, we stand on the cusp of a post-Europe, pre-Trump world. Perhaps we will look back on current times with the nostalgic romanticism of Richard Strauss’s 1911 paean to past glories, comforts and certainties: Der Rosenkavalier.

Loft Opera’s Macbeth: Go for the Singing, Not the Experience

Ah, Loft Opera. It’s part of the experience to wander down many dark streets, confused and lost, in a part of Brooklyn you’ve never been. It is that exclusive—you can’t even find the performance!

A clipped Walküre in Amsterdam

Let’s start by getting a couple of gripes out of the way. First, the final act of Die Walküre does not constitute a full-length concert, even with a distinguished cast and orchestra, and with animated drawings fluttering on a giant screen.

A Leonard Bernstein Delight

When you combine two charismatic New York stage divas with the artistry of Los Angeles Opera, you have a mix that explodes into singing, dancing and an evening of superb entertainment.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

Karita Mattila — Helsinki Recital
18 Nov 2010

Karita Mattila: Helsinki Recital

Ondine provides a nice bonus for fans of Karita Mattila in its recent DVD release of a 2006 Helsinki recital with accompanist Martin Katz.

Karita Mattila — Helsinki Recital

Martin Katz, piano; Karita Mattila, soprano; Ilmo Ranta, piano

Ondine ODV 4004 [DVD plus bonus CD]

$33.49  Click to buy

Besides the DVD of the full recital and encores, Ondine provides a second disc basically constituting a sampler of studio Ondine recitals from the 1990s. Ms. Mattila is in gorgeous voice in these earlier recordings, singing Beethoven, Schubert and Brahms with exquisite tone and reserved but affecting emotion, and pouring out idiomatic splendor in songs from countrymen Jean Sibelius, Toivo Kuula, and Erkki Melartin (with Ilmo Ranta at the keyboard).

But does Ondine do any favors to Ms. Mattila with the inclusion of this second disc? The voice in the 2006 recital is not the same liquid, flexible instrument heard ten years earlier. The Finnish National Opera house looks to be a relatively intimate concert space, but it’s still a hall, as opposed to the confines of a recording studio with sensitive equipment that allowed Mattila to employ a wide range of dynamic effects. The opening set of the 2006 recital, Duparc songs, often finds Mattila’s voice hardening by the middle of a song, and even a sort of Slavic thickness developing. This is less of a hindrance in the Kaija Saaraiho set “Quatre instants,” dedicated to Ms. Mattila. Here the soprano’s instrument is put to more dramatic, mechanical use. Martin Katz gets to shine in the Saaraiho music, and the director often focuses on the pianist's hands at the keyboard as he deals with wild jumps, booming bass lines and skittering steps across the high keys. At the end of the set Ms. Mattila clutches the score to her chest and then welcomes the composer to the stage. It must be quite an honor to have a preeminent contemporary composer fashion a piece for oneself; nonetheless, anyone who wants to hear this set of songs more than once has a greater appetite for the gnarly and self-consciously arty than your reviewer does.

The second half makes for a more enjoyable experience, with that Slavic tinge put to fine use in some lovely Rachmaninoff settings and then the Dvořäk “Gipsy Songs.” Your reviewer actually saw a 2003 recital appearance by Ms. Mattila, in a shamefully under-attended recital at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in Los Angeles back in 2003. The program was virtually the same, only with the cherishable exception of Sibelius songs in place of the not-yet-completed Saaraiho. As fine an actress as Ms. Mattila can be, she does enjoy well-considered effects, and after a few years of doing this recital set, it seems fair to say that any spontaneity has gone out of the evening. She did the same tacky but fun encore back then (Victor Young’s “Golden Earrings”), as well as the sweet Finnish traditional that closes the evening. In Helsinki Ms. Mattila looks stunning, it should be noted, almost uncomfortably smooth-faced and glamorized in hair and make-up. The porcelain surface of her face barely creases, no matter how much effort she brings to certain passages.

Ondine’s presentation is immaculate, and the camerawork couldn’t be better, as we enter the gorgeous Helsinki house form outside and see the handsome crowd gather in the lobby, champagne glasses in hand. Your reviewer would have preferred subtitles to the translated texts in the booklet, but some people love nothing more than to rustle programs at a recital, so here’s their chance to do it at home.

If the DVD recital slightly disappoints, therefore, rejoice in the artistry caught forever in the bonus disc of Ms. Mattila’s 1990s recordings.

Chris Mullins

Send to a friend

Send a link to this article to a friend with an optional message.

Friend's Email Address: (required)

Your Email Address: (required)

Message (optional):