Time Out New York
, June 2011
Swedish baritone Peter Mattei, who dazzles audiences with his silken voice and towering, offbeat presence, here offers a genuinely impressive aria recital. One of the greatest Don Giovannis around, Mattei broke hearts in a completely different mode in last season’s From the House of the Dead at the Metropolitan Opera. This spring, Mattei scored another Met triumph as Yeletsky in Queen of Spades, and on this disc he knocks the prince’s irresistibly desperate you’re-just-not-that-into-me lament out of the park.
Mattei’s Russian is a match for his English in the ravishing—and ravishingly sung—Prison Scene from Britten’s Billy Budd: Everything is comprehensible and uttered with feeling, but here and there a consonant or vowel goes wrong—“seelvehrz” for silvers, “yazno” for yasno. As Verdi’s noble Posa (in his two-part Death Scene) and Wagner’s uptight Wolfram (both arias are given here), Mattei is pretty much ideal; the same is true in Mozart’s tricky aria for Count Almaviva, the role of Mattei’s stellar 2002 Met debut.
A few selections—Don Giovanni’s traffic-directing “Metà di voi” and Onegin’s Act III arioso—don’t have maximal effect outside of their stage context, but they are as well performed as everything else. Lawrence Renes and the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic sound slightly cheesy in the lead-in to Figaro’s self-introduction, but they carry their weight everywhere else.