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Finland has produced outstanding artists on the international music scene, from composers to conductors, from soloists to singers, from classical music to heavy metal. And then there is La Mattila. 

Soprano Karita Mattila is a concept in her own right. Her name is known even to those who have never heard an aria in their lives. Mattila’s openness, uninhibited candour, unstinting sense of humour, combined with one of the finest voices of our time and a dazzling career, make for an appealing combination. 

Through the decades towards something new 

Mattila’s career, already spanning more than 40 years, is not only continuing but also developing.  She is adding new roles and new productions at a pace that many in the middle of their careers can only envy. She started off this year with a return to London’s Covent Garden as Clytemnestra in Richard Strauss’s Elektra; she first performed this role at the Deutsche Oper in 2019. The role of Herodias in Strauss’s Salome is also a recent addition, but she has already performed it in Paris, Canada and Houston in recent seasons. In the spring of 2022, she packed the Finnish National Opera with performances of Koko Karita (The Complete Karita), singing not only Poulenc’s monologue opera La Voix humaine but also a lighter jazz and entertainment programme.    

One of Karita Mattila’s great strengths is her stage expertise. Her interpretations of operatic characters are flesh and blood.

Bold and demanding a lot from herself 

Mattila demands a lot from herself, and this is evident from her achievements. This has also put her in a position where she has the courage to speak up and take a stand. No one in the opera world (nor indeed beyond it) failed to notice her refusal to work with conductor Valery Gergiev as early as the first Ukraine crisis in 2014. She drew the line at a place that other people did not reach until several years later. That took courage in a place like New York’s Metropolitan Opera, where even the world’s top soloists don’t consider themselves indispensable – not even Karita Mattila, who nevertheless said what needed to be said.  

A career that keeps going and evolving 

Always concerned about her physical fitness, Mattila tours the world’s opera houses and concert halls without any sign of either her own determination or public demand slowing down. It is therefore wonderful news that this coming summer she will finally make her opera debut at the Savonlinna Opera Festival. Of course she has performed in Olavinlinna before, but only as a concert soloist. She will appear in concert again this summer, but before that she will sing the role of Ortrud in Richard Wagner’s Lohengrin. 

One of Karita Mattila’s great strengths is her stage expertise. Her interpretations of operatic characters are flesh and blood. We can expect this in her interpretation of the villainous Ortrud, Wagner’s counterpart to Shakespeare’s Lady Macbeth, too. As a skilled actress, Karita Mattila really becomes Ortrud when she takes to the stage. Expect an interpretation that touches the heart and soul. 

Czech operatic gems 

The grand opera concert by the Czech National Opera, Národní divadlo, features a spectacular cavalcade of Czech opera gems. The second half of the concert features the second act of Leoš Janáček’s opera Jenůfa. Mattila, known around the world for her powerful Janáček interpretations, will sing Kostelnička Buryjovka, a role that she has not previously sung in Finland. Expectations are high in the international press. ‘Mattila is formidable in new Janáček staging’, ran the headline in The Guardian’s review of Jenůfa at Covent Garden in London in 2021. According to the critic Tim Ashley: ‘Mattila, as one might expect, was formidably intense and utterly commanding.’ Her performance in this earlier production was reviewed by the Sunday Times critic Hugh Canning: ‘She sings Kostelnička’s notes more beautifully – and accurately – than any other soprano I have heard live (more than 40)…’ 

This concert has been long awaited, as the pandemic prevented Karita Mattila’s gala concerts from taking place in 2020 as originally planned. The tragic character of Kostelnička Buryjovka as interpreted by Mattila is a splendid way to make amends. 

Text: Hannele Eklund 

Lohengrin at Olavinlinna Castle 5th, 9th, 12th, 15th and 18th of July, tickets starting from 75 €, more information here.
The Prague National Theatre and Karita Mattila – Grand Opera Concert at Olavinlinna Castle 31th of July, tickets starting from 65 €, more information here.