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Karita Mattila

Barbican, London

KARITAMattila can do no wrong as far as I am concerned. The Finnish soprano not only has one of the great voices for opera and recitals, but also she has one of the most likeable personalities.

I had waited for about a year for this evening, and was not disappointed. Mattila made frequent references to her age - mid-40s, but the gentleman in me refuses to be more specific - but that voice has got better, almost smokier; I bet she could even do justice to some of Sinatra's best torch songs.

Accompanied by the diminutive Martin Katz on piano, Mattila gave a bravura performance of Barber's Hermit Songs, followed by eight songs from four of Finland's less-celebrated composers, well less celebrated outside their own country that is. When Mattila sings songs from her own land you know there is a passion deep within.

The second half of the show, in which she had cast off the rather unattractive white outfit from the opening half for a very sexy cyan number, was a Spanish programme, a first for her and an indication of her versatility.

Hugo Wolf's Six Lieder from the Spanish Liederbuch, Granados' magnificent aria The Maiden and the Nightingale from the Goyescas collection, a rendition that was totally complimentary to Victoria de los Angeles' legendary recording, and Joaquin Turina's Poema en forma de canciones.

The Barbican Hall may not be the best for recitals, but if the performances are as good as this one was, that makes up for it.

At the end Mattila was so happy with the performance that she almost smothered Katz, who must have been at least 18 inches shorter than her. I would have been more than happy to have been in his place.

Review by Peter Wilson

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