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Foggy backroads with Karita Mattila (Wigmore Hall, 6 May 2017)

The moment Mattila waltzed in, grand and self mocking at the same time, as Primadonna/Ariadne on the ROH stage a couple of years back I was in love. So I jumped at the opportunity of a night of listening to her alone. What I got was unexpected.

Karita Mattila soprano
Ville Matvejeff piano

Johannes Brahms (1833-1897)
Zigeunerlieder Op. 103
Richard Wagner (1813-1883)
Wesendonck Lieder
Alban Berg (1885-1935)
Vier Lieder Op. 2
Richard Strauss (1864-1949)
Der Stern Op. 69 No. 1
Wiegenlied Op. 41 No. 1
Meinem Kinde Op. 37 No. 3
Ach Lieb, ich muss nun scheiden Op. 21
Wie sollten wir geheim sie halten Op. 19 No. 4
Allerseelen Op. 10 No. 8
Cäcilie Op. 27 No. 2

The Zigeunerlieder were cracking, the kind of chutzpah that first attracted me to her but eventually the night turned into something very introspective, with Mattila mostly parked at the low end of her range. Her voice is plummy there but that part of her range doesn’t necessary have a lot of colour, neither does it have the sparkle I was chasing. But she sprinkled some sparkle later on and in the encores, which were her cabaret best – I wasn’t the only one to think so.

I love her natural charm, the direct, unfussy way she communicates, the way she can build a low brow joke even in an evening dress, with dangly earrings. I also like how she controls her hands and uses them a lot but makes it look necessary. Another thing I enjoy is watching singers between songs/when they aren’t singing. I like to catch the moment they get in character/change from one to the other. She’s very spontaneous, just slips in and sails with the mood.

It was a quite weird, though, the sober mood that permeated the night, which sent my thoughts to some issues I’ve tried to avoid sort out for years. I must’ve felt very comfortable with her in the house to visit those ultra personal places. My mind sometimes wanders during performances but usually to more immediate matters. This was indeed the week of singing psychotherapy.

ROH 2015 Autumn Season General Sale

…has started yesterday and I completely forgot. It meant Rossi’s Orpheus at the Wanamaker Playhouse is virtually sold out (cheapest left over tickets = £63 and I’m not paying that much for something I have no idea about). It’ll probably be back by popular demand next year…

On the plus side I decided to go for JDF’s Orphee because it’s Orphee and I love it, even with a tenorino in the main role. The good thing with him is he’s not going to skip Amour viens rendre a mon ame. But seeing as it’s JDF I had to comb the entire schedule for a decently priced ticket. I also bought a ticket for Ariadne with (mostly) the same cast as last year – again on the grounds it’s Ariadne and Matilla (and the production) was so much fun.

One more reason to love Mattila

When I was younger I saw Ariadne and I thought, ‘Who is that boring woman sitting on that rock?’

You may or may not remember that Karita Mattila is one of those few singers who has made a physically unforgettable1 impression on me when I saw her in the flesh. Since then, though she’s obviously an excellent singer (but usually singing in a repertoire I don’t much care about), I’ve been more into her personality. She comes off as way wacky (which to me is a great thing) and out there. Her frankness is legendary and with good reason. It’s refreshing to hear/see people talk/act in unscripted ways.

Anyway: this is only news to me, but so swoon-inducing I shall remind you:

In April [20014], Mattila was booked to sing Strauss’s Four Last Songs with the Munich Philharmonic at Carnegie Hall in New York. The scheduled conductor was ill; Gergiev was brought in as a replacement. But Mattila decided they would have either her or Gergiev on stage, not both. The concert went ahead … under Fabio Luisi.

I guess she won’t be singing in Munich in the foreseeable future but it’s heartening to see people standing up for their opinions (especially when you think they’re right 😉 ).


  1. By “physically” I mean personal charisma, when it is almost physically palpable.