The Compact Collection

Susan Graham, Karita Mattila

Rob Cowan
Friday 14 June 2002 00:00
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"French Operetta Arias" says the CD booklet cover, "C'est la vie, c'est l'amour". So what might we expect? Offenbach, perhaps? Or Lecocq? There's not a note of either. But Honegger? Now you're talking! Track 4 of the mezzo Susan Graham's delicious new recital features a steamy aria, a sort of Ravel-Mahler synthesis, from Honegger's operetta about King Pausole and his 365 brides. "If you knew how long it is to wait a year, you feel your heart stretch like a bow..." And Graham sings with such aching sensuality that your heart stretches for her. And that's not the only surprise. There are two numbers by Moises Simons (of "The Peanut Vendor" fame), the first a Cuban-style dance song, the last a charming waltz. Messager is generously represented, and so is Hahn, mainly by music from the operettas Brummel and Mozart. Each miniature is piquantly characterised but you'll need to search the booklet to find who composed what – the box offers merely song titles, not composers or operetta titles. Very silly.

Graham is stylishly supported by the CBSO under Yves Abel, but soprano Karita Mattila fares even better on her German Romantic Arias where Sir Colin Davis conducts the Staatskapelle Dresden. Mattila's main strength is a thrilling upper range, but there's feeling in the words, too; in Leonore's invocation to Hope from Fidelio, for example, and the schizoid mood swings in his concert aria "Ah! Perfido". The rapport with Davis is at its most acute in Euryanthe's "So bin ich nun verlassen" while the other Weber selections include "Ocean! Thou mighty monster" (Oberon), sung in English. And what a grand idea to close with "the most beautiful nonsense by Metastasio", as Mendelssohn described the text for his dramatic concert aria Infelice!

Susan Graham: French Operetta Arias (Erato 0927-42106-2)

Karita Mattila: German Romantic Arias (Erato 0927-42141-2)

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