, September 2010
Finnish soprano Karita Mattila, who [turned] fifty in the beginning of September 2010, has had a long and successful career. After winning the first Cardiff Singer of the World Competition in 1983 she quickly established herself as one of the foremost sopranos in her generation. Her Covent Garden debut came in 1985 as Pamina in Die Zauberflöte. The Vienna State Opera saw her a couple of years later and she bowed at the Metropolitan Opera as Donna Elvira in Don Giovanni in 1990. Soon she took on heavier roles. In 2003 she sang her first Salome in Paris ´, a role she repeated at the Met the following year with great success. In 2007 she was named by BBC Music Magazine as one of the top 20 sopranos during the recorded era. On the present disc we meet her not only in some of her great opera roles but also in musical and popular songs and even a couple of jazz standards.
Dich teure Halle from Tannhäuser is finely nuanced and she has impressive power in the climaxes. The song to the moon from Rusalka is exquisite but even better is her both glorious and inward Ritorna vincitor from Aida—a superb portrait of the slave girl. Vissi d’arte is another top-notch performance. Sibelius’ Flickan kom has always been one of my absolute favourites among Nordic songs and Mattila gives it an intensely felt reading. Lasse Mårtenson is well-known in both Finland and Sweden as singer-songwriter. His wordless Myrskyluodon Maija is beautiful and Mattila sings it lyrically and with simplicity—like a folk song. There is a faster, more rhythmic middle section for the orchestra before the vocal solo is repeated.
There are many opera singers who have essayed lighter fare—not always with success. Many times the result is grand in a way that kills the melodies—too operatic. Karita Mattila has the ability to scale down, to employ a smaller-sized voice while retaining the quality of tone. The result is stunning. Don’t Cry for Me Argentina is arguably the best version I have ever heard, but all the musical numbers are eminently satisfying and I could have danced all night sung with restraint, rather like Julie Andrews, is also among the best versions I’ve heard.
In the final three songs she shows that she is an idiomatic jazz singer as well. The natural phrasing and rhythmic feeling of an Ella Fitzgerald is obviously second nature to Karita Mattila too.
The recordings are first class and most of the applause has been edited out.
A very attractive disc where one of the world’s leading opera singers proves that she has several other strings to her bow.