Sunday, November 26, 2006

Word is in from SF

Transcribed from my cell phone, the words of a left coast correspondent on tonight's Manon Lescaut:

Considering that the last time I saw Mattila on this stage she was tearin' it up as Kat'a, can you blame me for being shocked at how girlish she made her act 1 Manon? Also: her voice is sorta perfect.

And then, later:

Okay, so after act 2: maybe not *perfect* - some little pitch problems, some strident moments, but still, there are few people I'd rather hear sing this. This tenor Didyk is very much not to my taste (fast wide vibrato makes every note sound sharp) but there's no denying he can hit the notes. Overall, act 2 wasa funnier than I remember it being.


Incidentally, on youtube you can catch a glimpse of Mattila's Tosca, if you're so inclined, and some bits and pieces of Robert Carsen's Lohengrin with Mattila and Gwyneth Jones. Dame (?) Jones, in interview, sounding rather sweet, says how much she prefers singing nice characters to rotten ones. If I'm feeling a little sharper in the morning, I'll post a link, but I just finished watching Reds. At 3 1/2 hours (and not a minute that wants cutting) that movie really takes it out of you, doesn't it? And I always watch through the credits, waiting for the fleeting reference to Galli-Curci. For some reason I get a kick out of that.


Winpal said...

Since you brought it up, I was there last night too, so kindly allow me to blather on with my thoughts, should anyone be interested.

Mattila was, quite simply, superb. It was one of those performances that afterwards, walking back to the train, you really don’t want to talk and destroy the spell. You just want to keep those feelings in your head that you can’t describe to someone who doesn’t love opera and relish them for a while longer. That doesn’t happen nearly often enough.

I know it sounds hackneyed, but she is a “complete singing actress.” Everything is there – beautiful voice, secure technique, beautiful to look at, believable actress, charismatic stage presence. What I think sets her apart and puts her up there with the greats is that everything seems to naturally flow from an honest commitment to character. There is integrity to her art that is unforced, unmannered and real. She simply became Manon Lescaut.

The result is that you start foolishly debating the degree of perfection achieved. It wasn’t perfect. To my taste, her voice was maybe more cool and silver than warm and golden for ideal Puccini. Maybe some of the top notes didn’t have the ultimate bloom or perfect amount of vibrato, but those are meaningless little quibbles. This was a performance you could just sit back and marvel at as it unfolded, secure and intelligent, meaningful and true. It was like she took you by the hand and said, “Let me show you Manon.” You go along willingly and are rewarded greatly. The final scene was one of those moments when you are so pulled into the stage that everything around you ceases to exist, other than you are vaguely aware 3,000 other people are feeling the same thing and really trying not to cough.

It’s interesting that your cell phone correspondent did not like Misha Didyk. My partner, who generally does not subscribe to the bitchy queen bipolar school of opera criticism, hated him. He even went so far as to compare him to Bruno Becarria, which is our shared criterion for world’s worst performance by a tenor (Andrea Chenier some 15 years ago). But I actually liked him. True, the voice is kind of curdled, and it has that Slavic lispy thing on occasion, but the top rang out and I found him ardent. I mean that in a good way.

A name to put on your future watch list is tenor Sean Panikkar, a current Adler Fellow who sang the small role of Edmondo. There was a good deal of intermission discussion that argued he should have been singing Des Grieux. I don’t think he is quite there yet, but he shows very great promise.

Donald Runnicles, whom I find maddeningly inconsistent, was really on this time and the orchestra played beautifully. The intermezzo soared the way it should without an excess of calories.

All in all, it was one of those performances that come along every couple of years when I seriously consider paying big bucks to go back and see it from really good seats. My highest compliment is that I would pay $200 to see Mattila and not hate myself in the morning.

Thanks for letting me clog up your blog.

Chalkenteros said...

As if I needed to be more excited about the upcoming Jenufas. Thanks, Winpal.

Maury D'annato said...

Winpal: by all means, clog away! If nobody ever clogged, this would be a dull tea party indeeed, and I'd get all sullen and dejected and close up shop.

Respectfully, I remain a tiny bit on the fence about Mattila. Her Elsa left nothing to be desired, and her Salome was a thrilling event, but she often doesn't really grab me by the throat. The acting sometimes seems precise rather than driven, demented, or whatever, and sometimes the physical acting doesn't seem (to me! de gustibus!) to catch on in the voice . But these are quibbles and I'm looking forward to her Jenufas as I generally look forward to her performances.

Winpal said...

SFO's website has a brief promotional video clip from the performance at (click on video link under Discover over on the right):

Unfortunately, there is more Didyk than Mattila. Note his hand placement in the duet. Perhaps the score is marked Allegro con groppo at that point?

Chalkenteros said...

Interesting, Maury. I was not buying into the Mattila hype, until the Lohengrins last season. There was a "holy s&*t" moment as I was squinting through my binoculars at her make-up slathered face screaming at Otrud -- She was all there: the control and volume of the voice perfectly matched the dramatic performance, and, man, I was sold.

Winpal, bless your partner for not subscribing to "the bitchy queen bipolar school of opera criticism." He's a keeper.

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