KARITA MATTILA – “Viva To The Diva!”

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By Seán Martinfield
Sentinel Editor and Publisher
Photo by Lynn Imanaka

THE MAKROPULOS CASE is not Leoš Janáček’s greatest composition nor is it his most popular work. There are no memorable arias or ensembles, nothing to hum going up the aisle. But under the baton of Jiři Bělohlávek, chief conductor of the BBC Symphony, and with Grammy Award winning soprano Karita Mattila as the opera’s entrancing and mysterious “Emilia Marty” – the end product now at SAN FRANCISCO OPERA is magically delicious, lush and lusty, frothy, frightening and fabulous.
Click here to purchase tickets on-line: THE MAKROPULOS CASE

The Makopulos Case is a story set on an elevated plane of Reality – somewhere near the Twilight Zone, and with a detour around Oscar Wilde. The object of everyone’s affection and curiousity is “Emilia Marty” an opera diva in her absolute triple-threat prime. She’s a beauty. Her sexual charms are irresistible and her compelling voice rivals that of the Lorelei. The dilemma? Emilia’s thirty-something. She’s been thirty-something for the past 300 years. Not even her handwriting has changed! Back in 1575, her father slipped her a mickey – an elixir promising eternal youth. It worked. Since then the never-aging perpetually-passionate vamp has been on the lam, popular wherever she settles, and in demand for whatever she does.

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MIRO DVORSKY (Gregor) and KARITA MATILLA (Emilia)
Production photos by Cory Weaver

For three centuries, Emilia Marty has been using every possible alias with the initials E.M. to distract the public, re-use the embroidered towels, evade her contacts and perhaps the Law, and beguile even her own uninformed and maybe forty-something great-grandson, “Albert Gregor” (Miro Dvorsky) whose aggressive sexual advances toward her are creating an unseemly and socially awkward situation in the minds of the audience.

Worse! The elixir is starting to wear off and Emilia is desperate to get her slowly gnarling hands on the ancient formula. She knows it’s in a sealed envelope tucked away in a drawer on the estate of Baron Jaroslav Prus (Gerd Grochowski), who is (by now) a distant cousin of Albert’s deceased father, Baron Pepi Prus – the original owner of the estate – who everyone assumed died childless. Pepi and Emilia – then known as “Ellian MacGregor” – made a whole lotta whoopee to beget the heir who continued the dynasty that would produce the current and legal claimant to the fortune (and secret formula), Great Grandson Albert. And now – she must bed the all-too-willing distant Cousin Jaroslav to get the envelope to save her flawless skin and resolve her great grandson’s claim on the Prus estate. But what if something or somebody gets in the way?

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KARITA MATILLA (Emilia) and GERD GROCHOWSKI (Jaroslav Prus)
Emilia: You got what you wanted. Now give me the envelope.
Prus: It was like making love to a corpse.

“Dr. Kolenatý” (Dale Travis) is convinced she’s a fraud. A quick search through her suitcase reveals a stack of correspondence revealing more of her E.M. aliases – Elsa Müller, Ekaterina Myshkin, and Elina Makropulos. “Count Hauk-Šendorf” (Matthew O’Neill) may have a foot-and-a-half in the grave, but he vividly remembers his torrid affair with another of her AKAs – a hot gypsy called “Eugenia Montez”. He’s packed and ready to board her and the next train heading out of town. But Emilia? The elixir is fast-fading and so is her interest in another 300 years of flaming youth and “The Girl Can’t Help It”. Life is crap, meaningless, and without purpose. She bottoms-out on a bottle of Rye, the recipe goes up in flames, she mumbles “Our Father…” and dies.

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MATTHEW O’NEILL (Count Hauk-Šendorf) – KARITA MATTILA

Olivier Tambosi’s direction is fabulous. He splits the vision of the Makropulos “Thing” into two parallel universes. For Emilia Marty – it’s all about Emilia Marty and her life’s resumé of 300 years. She’s heard and seen everything. She is living in the consequences, in the aftermath of her never-ending youth. For everyone else – it’s all about Emilia Marty and the power and appeal of her mystique. Karita Mattila is perfect for the role. She is radiantly beautiful and vocally primed for her debut as “Emilia Marty”. Director Tambosi gives her the Star Treatment – she is fantastically framed from Entrance to Exit. Mattila’s characterization of a glamorous spellbound woman crumbling from within is highly nuanced; she is blatantly sexual yet cold and aloof, a Garbo-esque style of romantic enigma.

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KARITA MATTILA – as “Emilia Marty”.
Photo, Cory Weaver

THE MAKROPULOS CASE is co-produced with Finnish National Opera. It plays five more performances: Saturday, 11/13, at 8 pm; Tuesday, 11/16, at 8 pm; Saturday, 11/20 at 8 pm; Wednesday, 11/24, at 7:30 pm; and Sunday, 11/28, at 2:00 pm. It is performed in Czech with English supertitles.
Click here to purchase tickets on-line: THE MAKROPULOS CASE

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Seán Martinfield
Sentinel Editor and Publisher
Seán Martinfield, who also serves as Fine Arts Critic, is a native San Franciscan. He is a Theatre Arts Graduate from San Francisco State University, a professional singer, and well-known private vocal coach to Bay Area actors and singers of all ages and persuasions. His clients have appeared in Broadway National Tours including Wicked, Aïda, Miss Saigon, Rent, Bye Bye Birdie, in theatres and cabarets throughout the Bay Area, and are regularly featured in major City events including Diva Fest, Gay Pride, and Halloween In The Castro. As an Internet consultant in vocal development and audition preparation he has published thousands of responses to those seeking his advice concerning singing techniques, professional and academic auditions, and careers in the Performing Arts. Mr. Martinfield’s Broadway clients have all profited from his vocal methodology, “The Belter’s Method”, which is being prepared for publication. If you want answers about your vocal technique, post him a question on AllExperts.com. If you would like to build up your vocal performance chops and participate in the Bay Area’s rich theatrical scene, e-mail him at: sean.martinfield@comcast.net.

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