Friday, April 13, 2007

 
Last night I attended the first recital performance in Boston of the great Finnish soprano Karita Mattila. For almost two decades now, Ms Mattila has been one of the darlings and great stars of the opera world, an elegant, immensely talented woman who sings with secure, gleaming tone and acts with passion.

The program was well filled with Finnish songs, of which we don't get to hear nearly enough here in the U.S. beyond the works of Jan Sibelius who still towers over Finnish music and culture like a colossus.

Tall and statuesque, Mattila began with "Hermit Songs" by American composer Samuel Barber who discovered verses by Irish monks written in the margins of the sacred texts they were illuminating. Frequently secular, even ribald in content and feeling, these marginalia struck Barber as being fresh, honest and surprisingly contemporary. One very short song has this as its text:

I do not know with whom Edan will sleep.
But I do know that fair Edan will not sleep alone.


The Barber (in which her English was clear and virtually without accent) was followed by eight songs by four Finnish composers: Toivo Kuula, Erkki Merlartin, Oskar Merikanto and Leevi Medetoja. Before the Medetoja, the soprano made an appeal to music students in the audience (Jordan Hall is part of the New England Conservatory of Music) to explore the Finnish repertory. She then gave a superb demonstration of just why they would find Finnish music rewarding.

After intermission there was a set of striking, intense songs by Hugo Wolf, the troubled Austrian composer who went insane very early, followed by a Spanish set with selections by Granados and Turina.

In response to tremendous enthusiasm from the capacity audience, there were three encores--one song each by Dvorak and Sibelius, and she won all hearts by wrapping up with Gershwin’s "The Man I Love." During the curtain calls, there was some amusing byplay between the tall, willowy soprano and pianist Martin Katz who looks to be barely five feet tall and built like a fire hydrant. When she hugged him, his nose disappeared into her cleavage.

*******

Darin has made an extremely telling observation on his blog, All Preparation and No H, part of which I quote verbatim:

Mister Imus, through his statements, classified a group of people. And thus, he may lose his job. [And has lost both the radio and TV versions of the job since Darin wrote this]

But let me pose this question: Isn't that what lawmakers, our elected officials as well as various religious leaders, have been engaging in when it comes to gay rights? However, under the auspices of "freedom of speech" or "religious right" it seems as if it's ok to vilify the gay agenda.

Recently, a military official went before Congress and vilified the homosexual lifestyle. Uhmmm...he's still got his gig. I don't see where he's at risk of being fired.

Jerry Falwell not only accused gays of bringing wrath to the World. Oh no - he didn't stop there:

"I really believe that the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People For the American Way, all of them who have tried to secularize America. I point the finger in their face and say 'you helped this happen.' ["this", as I recall, being 9/11]

And this man still has a job?

So I guess American Society is saying that it's ok for those under the cloak of "Moral Rights" to verbally and legally slap groups down. But it's not acceptable for an acid-tongued radio announcer to say something.


Of course, the situation is radically different in one major way. Civil rights for African-Americans became and remains [justifiably] an iconic, sacred cause and event in American life. Civil Rights for gays and lesbians is opposed on the basis of The Bible, not only the most printed book in the history of the world but surely also the single most distorted, falsified and abused book as well.

Prejudice against gays and lesbians is the last remaining "respectable" prejudice—all the best people, don't you know. We've still got a long way to go and a lot more convincing to do.

*******

An ad for my house in Roslindale went into Bay Windows, Boston's gay newspaper, this week. Fritz had suggested it on the basis of the Staging Lady's comment that it would be good idea to market heavily in the house in the South End, Jamaica Plain and Boston's western suburbs--places where the house's period style and well-reserved interior detailing would e appreciated (the first two are also heavily gay neighborhoods, and therefore appropriate because of the steady gay migration into Roslindale in the last decade).

The house was been shown three times this week which is encouraging. No offers yet, but if this pace keeps up we'll at least be confident that it's getting good exposure.


I'm off now to Fritz's to work on the rebuilding of the Sweat lodge. I'll be back on Monday--have a happy weekend.



Comments:
"this", as I recall, being the devastation of New Orleans]

No, that was 9/11/2001. Dinesh D'Souza has been peddling a similar line lately that the decadence of the West made 9/11 happen because we offended the sensibilities of a moral, God-fearing world. If only we had stuck with the days of the natural order of things (races, women and sexual orientations knowing their places) then this wouldn't have happened.
 
Mike--thanks, I'll make the correction immediately. Don't I recall, though, that one of those wing nuts blamed gays for the destruction of New Orleans? Mardi Gras and Southern Decadence and all that?
 
I'm ashamed to say, Will, that I had not heard of Karita Mattila until I read this post. Both this and amazon reviews convince me that this is my loss. Which of her recordings would you recommend? Thanks.
 
Mattila will be presenting a recital of the same program in Saint Paul on April 25. My parents and Joshua and I will be attending, although the hall--the Ordway Center, with a capacity of 1900--is really too large for a lieder recital.

Will, do you know where the photo of Mattila was taken? It is driving me crazy, trying to recall, because I have been there, wherever it is, and I have observed precisely the same angle as the camera. Is that the outer lobby of the Theatre Des Champs Elysees in Paris? I am dying to know--it is killing me.
 
Don't I recall, though, that one of those wing nuts blamed gays for the destruction of New Orleans? Mardi Gras and Southern Decadence and all that?

Oh, I'm sure of it. Gay-baiting is a major cash cow for these guys.
 
Martin is a dear friend of mine. He luvs this woman! That hug may be part of their routine, as I have seen it too!
 
Mattila is presenting the same recital in Kansas City on Saturday night. Unfortunately, I'll be on my way to New Orleans and will miss her.

But, I heard her sing "Fidelio" a couple of years ago in Chicago. What a revelation that was.

I've heard Martin Katz many times over the last 35 years. He'll probably stay active as long as Gerald Moore did. As part of his stay here with Mattila, he's offering master classes at my alma mater. Not too shabby for a 1,000 student, formerly Baptist college.
 
David--her Fidelio at the MET was a wonderful performance. She was supposed to do it here in Boston in concert form with teh BSO but became ill and had to cancel.

Mattila's Jenufa tat the MET this season was superb.
 
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