Friday, December 09, 2011

Karita Mattila in Recital

San Francisco Perfomances presented soprano Karita Mattila in recital at Herbst Theatre last Tuesday night. I had a seat a few rows from the stage, & the statuesque Ms. Mattila, a good head taller than accompanist Martin Katz, was intimidating from that close up. She is a singing machine. Her voice has the same viscous & exact sound throughout its range, & she pushes out both low & high notes with the same athletic ease.

The 1st set of songs by Poulenc were charming vignettes in contrasting moods. In Hotel, Ms. Mattila sounded sultry & really did look like she wanted a cigarette. She was free in Voyage à Paris & seemed lost in thought in Sanglots. The Debussy songs were introspective & full of yearning. Ms. Mattila made a quivering, heart-breaking sound at the end of La balcon, & she sounded painfully sad in Recueillement. Mr. Katz was a beautifully precise & sensitive accompanist. His rippling notes in Le jet d'eau were fluid & clear.

Ms. Mattila was appropriately scary in a set of songs by Sallinen about dreams. I found their trance-like chanting & repetition to be unsettling, & Mr. Katz's sharp-edged playing set a creepy mood. The final set of songs by Marx had more soaring vocal lines but was just as disturbing. Ms. Mattila created sweeping climaxes on both high & low notes. At the end of Valse de Chopin, she rested her head on the piano lid as though fainting.

Ms. Mattila possess an unflappable stage presence. When the performers came out for the Debussy set, Mr. Katz discovered he was missing the music & abruptly walked off, leaving her alone on stage. She joked, "This is new," then decided to follow him. When a cell phone rang precisely at the end of a Le jet d'eau, or when a quarter of the audience started clapping before the end of La mort des amants, she managed to sustain the mood.

After this gloomy program, the encore was "I Could Have Danced All Night," complete with a little drunken dance. When Ms. Mattila asked the audience why she was wearing blue, a boisterous Finn at the back of the hall knew it was Finnish Independence Day. Ms. Mattila also told us she now felt free to touch Mr. Katz since he has recovered from his cold.

§ Karita Mattila, soprano
Martin Katz, piano

Francis Poulenc:
Banalités (Apollinaire) (1940)

Claude Debussy:
Cinq Poèmes de Baudelaire (1887–90)

Aulis Salinen:
Neljä laulua unesta (Four Dream Songs) (Haavikko) (1972)

Joseph Marx:
Nocturne (Hartleben)
Waldseligkeit (Dehmel)
Selige Nacht (Hartleben)
Valse de Chopin (Giraud)
Hat dich die Liebe berührt (Heyse)

Frederick Loewe & Alan Jay Lerner: "I Could Have Danced All Night"
Finnish Folk Song

San Francisco Performances
Tuesday, December 6, 8pm
Herbst Theatre

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