Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Reviews

The Met’s ‘Le Nozze di Figaro’ a happy marriage of ensemble singing and acting

The cast of supporting roles was especially strong in the company’s new production of Mozart’s matchless masterpiece

Syracuse Opera’s ‘Die Fledermaus’ bubbles over with fun, laughter and irresistible music

The company uncorks its 40th Anniversary season with a visually and musically satisfying production of Johann Strauss Jr.’s farcical operetta

Capriccio at Lyric Opera of Chicago

Although performances of Richard Strauss’s last opera Capriccio have increased in recent time, Lyric Opera of Chicago has not experienced the “Konversationsstück für Musik” during the past twenty odd years.

Anna Netrebko, now a dramatic soprano, shines in the Met’s dark and murky ‘Macbeth’

The former lyric soprano holds up well — and survives the intrusive close-up camerawork of the ‘Live in HD’ transmission

Arizona Opera Presents First Mariachi Opera

Houston Grand Opera commissioned Cruzar la Cara de la Luna from composer José “Pepe” Martínez, music director of Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlán, who wrote the text together with Broadway and opera director Leonard Foglia. The work had its world premier in 2010. Since then, it has traveled to several cities including Paris, Chicago, and San Diego.

Plácido Domingo: I due Foscari, London

“Why should I go to hear Plácido Domingo” someone said when Verdi’s I due Foscari was announced by the Royal Opera House. There are very good reasons for doing so.

Philip Glass’s The Trial

Music Theatre Wales presented the world premiere of Philip Glass’s The Trial (Kafka) last night at the Linbury, Royal Opera House. Music Theatre Wales started doing Glass in 1989. Their production of Glass’s In the Penal Colony in 2010 was such a success that Glass conceived The Trial specially for the company.

Joyce DiDonato: Alcina, Barbican, London

To say that the English Concert’s performance of Handel’s Alcina at the Barbican on 10 October 2014 was hotly anticipated would be an understatement. Sold out for weeks, the performance capitalised on the draw of its two principals Joyce DiDonato and Alice Coote and generated the sort of buzz which the work did at its premiere.

Un ballo in maschera in San Francisco

The subject is regicide, a hot topic during the Italian risorgimento when the Italian peninsula was in the grip of the Hapsburgs, the Bourbons, the House of Savoy and the Pontiff of the Catholic Church.

A New Don Giovanni and Anniversary at Lyric Opera of Chicago

Lyric Opera of Chicago opened its sixtieth anniversary season with a new production of Mozart’s Don Giovanni directed by Artistic Director of the Goodman Theater, Robert Falls.

Grande messe des morts, LSO

It was a little over two years ago that I heard Sir Colin Davis conduct the Berlioz Requiem in St Paul’s Cathedral; it was the last time I heard — or indeed saw — him conduct his beloved and loving London Symphony Orchestra.

Guillaume Tell, Welsh National Opera

Part of their Liberty or Death season along with Rossini’s Mose in Egitto and Bizet’s Carmen, Welsh National Opera performed David Pountney’s new production of Rossini’s Guillaume Tell (seen 4 October 2014).

Mose in Egitto, Welsh National Opera

Welsh National Opera’s production of Rossini’s Mose in Egitto was the second of two Rossini operas (the other is Guillaume Tell) performed in tandem for their autumn tour.

L’incoronazione di Poppea, Barbican Hall

In Monteverdi’s first Venetian opera, Il Ritorno d’Ulisse (1641), Penelope’s patient devotion as she waits for the return of her beloved Ulysses culminates in the triumph of love and faithfulness; in contrast, in L’incoronazione di Poppea it is the eponymous Queen’s lust, passion and ambition that prevail.

Rameau’s Les Paladins, Wigmore Hall

After the triumphs of love, the surprises: Les Paladins, under their director Jérôme Correas, and soprano Sandrine Piau are following their tour of material from their 2011 CD, ‘Le Triomphe de L’amour’, with a new amatory arrangement.

Puccini : The Girl of the Golden West, ENO London

At the ENO, Puccini's La fanciulla del West becomes The Girl of the Golden West. Hearing this opera in English instead of Italian has its advantages, While we can still hear the exotic, Italianate Madama Butterfly fantasies in the orchestra, in English, we're closer to the original pot-boiler melodrama. Madama Biutterfly is premier cru: The Girl of the Golden West veers closer, at times, to hokum. The new ENO production gets round the implausibility of the plot by engaging with its natural innocence.

Anna Caterina Antonacci, Wigmore Hall, London

Presenting a well-structured and characterful programme, Italian soprano Anna Caterina Antonacci demonstrated her prowess in both soprano and mezzo repertoire in this Wigmore Hall recital, performing European works from the early years of the twentieth century. Assuredly accompanied by her regular pianist Donald Sulzen, Antonacci was self-composed and calm of manner, but also evinced a warmly engaging stage presence throughout.

Il barbiere di Siviglia, Royal Opera

Bold, bright and brash, Moshe Leiser and Patrice Caurier’s Il barbiere di Siviglia tells its story clearly in complementary primary colours.

Gluck and Bertoni at Bampton

Bampton Classical Opera’s 2014 double bill neatly balanced drollery and gravity. Rectifying the apparent prevailing indifference to the 300th centenary of Christoph Willibald Gluck birth, Bampton offered a sharp, witty production of the composer’s Il Parnaso confuso, pairing this ‘festa teatrale’ with Ferdinando Bertoni’s more sombre Orfeo.

Purcell: A Retrospective

Harry Christophers and The Sixteen Choir and Orchestra launched the Wigmore Hall’s two-year series, ‘Purcell: A Retrospective’, in splendid style. Flexibility, buoyancy and transparency were the watchwords.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

Karita Mattila as Emilia Marty [Photo by Cory Weaver courtesy of San Francisco Opera]
20 Nov 2010

The Makropulos Case in San Francisco

Just now in San Francisco Finnish soprano Karita Mattila kicked ass as Janáček’s 337 year old Elina Makropulos.*

Leoš Janáček: Věc Makropulos [The Makropulos Affair]

Emilia Marty: Karita Mattila; Albert Gregor: Miro Dvorsky; Baron Jaroslav Prus: Gerd Grochowski; Dr. Kolenaty: Dale Travis; Vitek: Thomas Glenn; Kristina: Susannah Biller; Count Hauk-Šendorf: Matthew O’Neill; Janek: Brian Jagde; A Stagehand: Austin Kness; A Chambermaid, A Cleaning Woman: Maya Lahyani. Conductor: Jiří Bělohlávek. Director: Olivier Tambosi. Production Designer: Frank Philipp Schlössmann. Lighting Designer: Duane Schuler.

Above: Karita Mattila as Emilia Marty

All photos by Cory Weaver courtesy of San Francisco Opera

 

Specifically she kicked the asses of the several men who materialized in her long, long life just as the effects of the longevity potion her father invented back in 1593 began to wear off. These unfortunate men had awakened those few moments when, over the centuries, her soul had been moved, and these rediscovered feelings conflicted with her instinct for eternal life as she had come to understand over the centuries the futility of her emotions. She finds resolution of this conflict in death.

This bizarre masterpiece is, all said and done, Janáček’s idea of a comedy. His uniquely middle European depressive poetic, melding philosophy with highly complex emotions took solid hold into the reaches of War Memorial Opera House by its third performance (November 17).

Universally vivid performances. Elina’s great, great, great, etc., grandson Berti sung by Slovakian tenor Miro Dvorsky touched the true tonalities of the Czech language, the Prus of German bass-baritone Gerd Grochowski found the suavity and confidence of an Austro-Hungarian aristocracy, the fumbling lawyer Dr. Kolenaty was enacted skillfully by stalwart San Franciscan buffo Dale Travis.

MattilaGrochowski.gifKarita Mattila as Emilia Marty and Gerd Grochowski as Jaroslav Prus

Touching were the performances of Adler alumni Thomas Gleen as Vitek and Brian Jagde as Janek, the callow young victim of Elina’s perfected sexual prowess. Adler alumnus Matthew O’Neill was caricatural pure perfection as Elina’s idiot lover Hauk, as was Kristina, the opera-star-to-be (Elina Makropulos’ protege) sung by Susannah Biller.

Dominating the stage equally were Janacek’s heroine Karita Mattila as Elina Makropulos and Janáček’s orchestra conducted by Jiří Bělohlávek. They were simply one and the same, one soprano embodying Mo. Bělohlávek’s seventy-three players. Yes, the performance was huge. She was huge, the enormity of 337 years of life graphically unravelling on the stage was quite real.

The story of Elina Makropulos is told musically rather than dramatically, the little lawsuit Gregor vs. Prus merely pretext for the inner life of Mme. Makropulos to explode in the orchestra, superseding the dramatic inconsistencies and general confusion of the libretto.

Mme. Mattila absorbed every musical movement in a dramatic performance so complete that it will become legendary as it traverses the world. For this she has partnered with conductor Bělohlávek who revealed the gamut of the depraved humanity Janáček had transformed into pure music in his preceding oeuvre. Like all Janáček heroines Elina Makropulos too attains a sort of salvation by reconciling herself to the futility of life and therefore accepting death.

OfficeTrio.gifMiro Dvorsky as Albert Gregor, Karita Mattila as Emilia Marty and Dale Travis as Dr. Kolenatý

The production by Viennese director Olivier Tambosi merely supported the Mattila performance, the stylishly directed supporting cast moving appropriately over the turntable set imagined by big-time designer Frank Philipp Schlössmann. Like the staging the set disappeared behind the Mattila performance. Its cartoon lines were self-consciously descriptive of a caricatural concept that the production flirted with but never fully absorbed. Maintaining this careful balance of caricature and expressionist comedy was however the strength of the production, allowing at least some perspective for the over-the-top Mattila performance.

*“Let’s kick ass” was Mme. Mattila’s term before attacking Salome last year on the Met’s Live in HD.

Michael Milenski

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):