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Miss Mattila is ageless

mattila_fever_thumbLa Cieca has managed to nab a few moments of video of tonight’s performance of Vec Makropulos from San Francisco, proving that Karita Mattila is indeed today’s ideal interpreter of the role of Emilia Marty. [Video]


  • spiderman says:

    A terrific evening with a demented Mattila in a wonderful production!!!

    I think we should give credits to Mr Tambosi. We know Karita is fabulous but we could see both in Tosca and Salome that she tends to do some really strange things on stage when she is not directed well. Something that never happened in Jenufa, Manon Lescaut or this time in Makropoulos…

  • SF Guy says:

    For Camille and other interested parties--the first Makropulos reviews are in, and they’re extremely favorable:

    (SF Chronicle)

    (SJ Mercury News)

    • richard says:

      This is something I’d really love to see. I first saw the opera was I was still very young and loved the outlandish , impossible plot. Plus that wonderful music at the very end. It’s a wonderful role for the right kind of soprano and my thinking is that it should suit Mattila very well.

      Met Futures lists a Mattila Macropoulos for early 2012. I’m hoping it holds and likewise Mattila, that’s a must see for me.

  • sfmike says:

    Saw it opening night from standing room in the top balcony with a pair of opera glasses. It’s one of the best productions of opera I’ve ever seen, with all the planets of casting, conductor and production magically aligned.

    Jiri Belohlavek, making his SF debut, doesn’t make the orchestra sound anything like my favorite Janacek conductor, the recently deceased Charles Mackerras, but it’s a great performance by him and the orchestra nonetheless with its own Brno authenticity. You can hear lots of things in the music that you’ve never heard before. The simple, turntable production is quite beautiful and the weird blocking isn’t really a problem. It’s a weird tale, and the 300+ year old falling asleep out of nowhere is in the libretto.

    Karita Mattila sang in San Francisco in the early 1990s when she was just starting her international career, and we got to hear her in “Idomeneo” (Ilia), “Meistersinger,” and “Lohengrin,” where she was wonderful. “Katya Kabanova” much later on was a great performance sabotaged by a dumb regie production, while her recent stab at “Manon Lescaut” struck me as misguided as her reported outings as Tosca. As Emilia Marty in “Makropulos” she’s found a role that is perfect for her age, the state of her voice, her glamour, and her acting chops. I’ve never seen this opera actually work before, so this is an amazing achievement. Mattila is officially a goddess, turning us all into foolish suitors.

    I’m going back next Tuesday.

  • m. croche says:

    There is nothing in the first act of the score which corresponds to the coma into which Mattila falls while Gregor sings. In the second act she’s asleep for all of 20 bars.

    • sfmike says:

      Sorry, got my comas mixed up, but it still didn’t bother me. If I were 300+ years old, sudden catnaps in the middle of somebody else’ boring to me narrative would seem quite sensible.

  • SF Guy says:

    Camille et al--Just got back from Makropulos; loved the production and Mattila’s fearlessly unsympathetic performance. For much of the first act she physicalizes Emilia exactly like a petulant old woman growing into undignified second childhood, preoccupied with nothing but her own needs and falling into frequent catnaps, the joke being that her gorgeous exterior prevents everyone else from picking up on this. The amount of time she spends on that desktop seemed consistent with her approach--”I’ve been around long enough to act any damn way I want to; whatcha gonna do about it?”

    In the context of the stylized b/w cross-hatching, suggesting a surrealistic graphic novel, the anachronisms of the 1950′s look weren’t a problem, and (much more important) allowed Mattila to look really fabulous.

    This remains one of my least favorite Janacek operas (no juicy dramatic conflicts, lots of talk and belated exposition), but Mattila makes it spellbinding anyway. She didn’t start out that way, but immortality has made this woman as soulessly monstrous as Salome. The others watch her final moments with horror, and they sure don’t waste any time burning that formula.

    Here’s what Classical Voice had to say;

    • Camille says:

      Oh SFGuy! I forgot to give a Big old shoutout of Gracias for this! Especially for delineation of her characterization which is always interesting, but she seems to have outdone herself this time. I am so pleased and happy for her after that terrible Tosca mess last year. She is a real champ to pull this off and I can hardly wait till it comes to the MET. Go Girl from Finland!

    • Batty Masetto says:

      Nice to know she appears to have gotten more comfortable during the run. I don’t care in principle whether she climbs on a desk or swings from a trapeze, but at the dress she looked so damn uncomfortable up there on that desk -- uncertain balance, crouching uneasily in her high heels, having to shift around within a cramped space when it would be so much easier to just get down -- that it seemed like just the opposite of acting any way she pleased. Anyhow it’s a powerful characterization for sure.

      But you put your finger on something I really do think is a shortcoming in the production, not in the work itself -- the juice lies in the suspense, which is formidable and comes from the gradual peeling away of the truth about Emilia. And in a certain sense you can really only see that through the gradual transformations in the other characters’ reactions. Which I didn’t, and it sounds like maybe you didn’t either. Sure they’re fascinated at the start and appalled at the end, but how do they get there? What’s their journey?

      • SF Guy says:

        Three performances into the run, Mattila owns that table. However, kicking around documents in stiletto heals is still comes a bit awkwardly, even when they’re lying on the floor.

        This production doesn’t seem particularly interested in generating suspense; the grahpic-novel look to the design reminded me that Cunning Little vixen was based on a daily comic, and this Makropulos is Vixen turned inside out, a darkly comic morality tale about the folly of thwarting the cycles of death and renewal. The music has the power of Vixen, but unnaturally sliced and diced, unable to come to fully developed climaxes; it seethes and churns without resolution, just like Emilia’s existence.

        In Act 3, Emilia turns into one nasty drunk, so that even the dimmest of her admirers finally see the truth. “You think I care that you’re my grandson, Berti? There must be thousands of my brats out there by now.” “‘Lady’? I haven’t been a lady for centuries.” Emilia hasn’t cared for anyone but herself for longer than she can remember--as the others realize, she’s seen it all, everybody dies on her, it’s all a blur, and what’s the point of caring about any of it.? The only thing that changes is that she stops caring about herself as well. Mattila’s Emilia is a monster--indifferent, callous, selfish to the bone, and death does nothing to enoble her or restore her humanity. I liked the fact that in this production the destruction of the forumula was more a collective act of revulsion and less a decision by Kristina to turn down this particular beauty tip. I’m sure there are other equally valid ways to approach the piece, but I thought this one was compelling and worked better for me than the 1993 production with Stephanie Sundine, my only previous encounter in live performance.