Peter Mattei - Great Baritone Arias

Arias by Mozart, Tchaikovsky, Wagner, Gounod, Rossini, Verdi and Britten.
See the complete track listing after the review.
Peter Mattei (baritone)
Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra/Lawrence Renes
rec. November 2008, March 2009 and October 2010 at the Stockholm Concert Hall. Hybrid SACD.
Texts and English translations are included.
BIS-SACD-1749 [63:51] 

Hey you, collections of tenor and soprano recordings on the CD shelves! Move to one side and make room for an outstanding baritone disc! Peter Mattei is now in his prime, and his voice miraculously preserves the freshness and vibrancy of youth. His fast notes are excellently articulated, his slow ones are just beautiful. His voice is instantly recognizable. It is not as muffled as Hvorostovky, not as watery as Hampson and not as dark as Gobbi. It is straight, clear and never shows its limits - as if there are no limits, and the singer just decides to draw the cut exactly where he chooses.
It’s harder to get under the spell of opera these days. The plots may be silly and overblown, but such is the magic of opera that we forget about the logic - we are fed by the emotion in the music, in the voice. 200 years ago this could have been easier - people did not expect logic in the art, did not expect opera to be something else. Now we are educated, we read, we watch tons of movies - and it takes more to break through the stockades of our brains to our hearts. And the main weapon here is, surely, the voice. It must come into resonance with our emotional core. Then we’ll stop looking for logic and will believe the action like a fairy tale, like children that believe the art because it is beautiful. That’s why we can listen to opera in other languages without understanding a word and will still cry and laugh with it.
That’s what I feel in Mattei’s final monolog of di Posa from Don Carlo. I don’t quite care for the future of Spain and Flanders at that moment; di Posa’s actions do not seem to me the smartest things to do, and his death is dubious. There is too much Deus jumping out of every macchina. But Verdi and Mattei bring me into emotional resonance. I don’t think anymore: I feel. And this feeling is beyond words.
I feel it with Mattei’s Wolfram, his Valentin and his Yeletsky. They are noble and tender, and power blends with beauty in the singing as they watch their sopranos being stolen by flashy tenors. Wagner’s opera chunks rarely mix well with other composers, but the two Wolfram songs from Tannhäuser (the contest song and the Evening Star) are heartfelt and lyrical, and fit in the picture frame like two pieces of mosaic.
Mattei’s Count from Figaro is not a villain: he has human feelings, and his actions are motivated. As a matter of fact, Mattei is a natural Mozartean. He shows deep psychology in Se vuol ballare, going under the surface. He conveys soft humor in the Cosi fan tutte aria, and in Leporello’s number he lights the music with a smile.
Mattei’s Onegin is ardent and very sincere. You’ll be touched by the eerie, dreamy meditation of Billy Budd, the humble acceptance of his fate. Largo al factotum is spirited and sonorous. Finch’han dal vino may be too fast, almost reaching frenzy. Deh vieni is a gallant romance: a soft, elegant ending to the program.
I wish there were more arias included - especially more Verdi. Even so, this collection is a delight. The acoustics are perfect, catching the voice and the orchestra in full 3D. The orchestra under Lawrence Renes is a worthy partner, elegant and colorful, well balanced and sympathetic. The booklet contains a short essay about the tough life of the baritone in the opera world and about the arias from the program. It also tells us about the singer, the orchestra and the conductor - all this in English, Swedish, German and French. Texts of all arias are given in the original language with the English translation. A glorious disc! 

Oleg Ledeniov 

A glorious disc!
Track listing:
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Finch’han dal vino (from Don Giovanni) (1787) [1:18]
Metà di voi qua vadano (from Don Giovanni) [2:43]
Pyotr Ilyich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893)
Uzhel ta samaya Tatyana (from Eugene Onegin) (1878) [2:11]
Richard WAGNER (1813-1883)
Blick’ ich umher in diesem edlen Kreise (from Tannhäuser) (1843-45) [5:18]
Charles GOUNOD (1818-1893)
Avant de quitter ces lieux (from Faust) (1859) [3:14]
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART
Se vuoi ballare (from Le nozze di Figaro) (1786) [2:34]
Hai già vinta la causa… Vedrò mentr’io sospiro (from Le nozze di Figaro) [4:34]
Richard WAGNER
Wie Todesahnung… O, du mein holder Abendstern (from Tannhäuser) [5:09]
Ya vas lyublyu (from The Queen of Spades) (1890) [3:53]
Gioacchino ROSSINI (1792-1868)
Largo al factotum (from Il barbiere di Siviglia) (1816) [4:54]
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART
Rivolgete a lui lo sguardo, K.584 (originally intended for Così fan tutte) (1789) [5:03]
Vy mnye pisali… Kogda by zhizn domashnim krugom (from Eugene Onegin) [5:00]
Giuseppe VERDI (1813-1901)
Son io, mio Carlo… Per me giunto… O Carlo, ascolta (from Don Carlo) (1866) [8:06]
Benjamin BRITTEN (1913-1976)
Look! Through the port comes the moonshine astray (from Billy Budd) (1951) [5:41]
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART
Deh, vieni alla finestra (from Don Giovanni) [2:02]