Finnish soprano Karita Mattila has a voluptuous, glowing, dramatic voice, with a stage presence to match. Her international career began in earnest when she won the Cardiff Singer of the World competition in 1983, and in the mid-90s she rose rapidly into the first tier of opera singers worldwide, becoming a confident and disciplined diva, equally at home with weighty Wagner roles and lighter, more psychologically complex Mozart parts. Lately she’s sung Janacek’s Jenufa, Wagner’s Isolde, and Beethoven’s Leonore, turning each into a flesh-and-blood character. Unlike a Wagnerian soprano, who might simply stand and deliver, she immerses herself in the psychological and physical aspects of the role–she can convey the terrible precariousness of Leonore’s situation, for instance, without losing control of her voice. I first heard Mattila in the late 80s at the Lyric Opera, where she sang Donna Elvira in Don Giovanni and Pamina in The Magic Flute, and though I was immediately struck by the radiance and intelligence of those portrayals, she easily topped them in 1995, playing Eva in Die Meistersinger von Nurnberg with Georg Solti and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Mattila returns to Chicago this week for her Ravinia debut: first she’ll be partnered with Siberian-born baritone Dmitri Hvorostovsky for a CSO concert, and then she’ll sing a recital with pianist Martin Katz. The CSO program, to be conducted by Christoph Eschenbach, consists primarily of arias and duets by Wagner, Dvorak, Tchaikovsky, and Verdi, and the two singers, who’ve worked together often, should complement each other wonderfully. I especially look forward to the recital, which includes an A-list of songs by Schubert, Mahler, and Richard Strauss, complemented by less familiar selections from Frenchman Henri Duparc and fellow Finn Jean Sibelius. Saturday, August 3, 8 PM, Pavilion (CSO concert), and Wednesday, August 7, 8 PM, Martin Theatre (recital), Ravinia Festival, Green Bay and Lake Cook Rds., Highland Park; 847-266-5100.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Lauri Eriksson.