15 February 2007


Janacek JENUFA, Met 14.II.2007; c. Belohlavek; Mattila, Silja, Silvasti, Morris (d), Dever.

Magnificent Anja Silja. Her voice has an unusual light mass, cool, cutting, startingly youthful (barely a wobble), and her stage deportment never overblown. Even from afar, I could make out the emotional contours of her face. She can be motionless on stage, amidst other singers' music, and I find that I can't take my eyes off her. What a grand achievement, to be able to match luminous Karita Mattila's physical vigor and vocal stamina. And she can't be 66, no way.

Mattila is a phenomenal artist. She is a tall, striking woman, always looking like she won't take sh*t from anyone, and so Act I may have been a stretch for her. (Indeed she can act, but acting was what it looked like.) Things change for Jenufa in Act II, right into Mattila's comfort zone. Jenufa's phrases begin to reach for the stratosphere, which is also where Mattila's strength lies. Our soprano's middle range is relatively colorless and amorphous, but her voice finds focus once it's pushed upward, piano or forte (in her case, ffff), jagged or drawn out (her screams are chilling, but her serene Hail Holy Queen beats any Desdemona's Ave Maria any day). In these upper regions, she is luxurious splendor. (This is why her Salome and her Elsa are her best achievements to date.)

Jay Hunter Morris debuts successfully as Steva. With a big but sweet and naturally expressive voice, he may have a fine career as a heldentenor, if stars line up. A name to watch.