The formidable Finnish soprano Karita Mattila has made the role very much her own, and her performance with the BBC Symphony Orchestra’s Czech conductor Jiri Belohlavek and an entirely Czech cast last week was electrifying.
Jiri Belohlavek and an entirely Czech cast last week was electrifying. The opera is part-thriller, part love story. Celebrated diva Emilia Marty arrives at a lawyer’s office in Prague, claiming to know the whereabouts of a lost will in a probate case that has been going on for almost a century. Accused of having forged the will, she reveals that 337 years ago an elixir of youth tested on her by her alchemist father had condemned her to perpetual life. The young Elina Makropulos had assumed different identities and lives over the years, while retaining her original initials.
Though the semi-staging was restricted, Mattila’s performance was expansive. She brought out the conflicting emotions of one who has lived over and over again, through ambition, love and betrayal. Mattila, magnificent in red, was by turns imperious, demanding, flirtatious, and finally vulnerable, as the diva realises a life without limit is meaningless.