From Mozart to Tchaikovsky to Britten, with a smattering of Wagner and Rossini along the way, Mattei dashes from one Greatest Hit to another with a versatility that’s almost galling. Comparisons are inevitable but for once, not odious; Mattei is a worthy heir to his illustrious predecessors, and the vocal and theatrical charisma which have made him such an audience favourite transfer remarkably well to disc.
His honeyed baritone is as beguiling in Don Giovanni’s Serenade as it is devastating in Billy Budd’s Look! Through the port…, and he manages both Wagnerian legato and Rossinian coloratura with ease. Mattei’s madcap Largo al factotum must be one of the laugh-out-loud funniest on disc, and when it comes on the heels of a soaring, dignified account of Yeletsky’s Ya vas lyublyu (The Queen of Spades), it’s hard to believe that the same singer produced both performances. Or rather, it would be, were they – and indeed, every selection on this disc is – not unified by his sterling musicianship, vivid characterisation and seriously beautiful voice, all of which make Mattei such a distinctive artist.
The Royal Stockholm Philharmonic, under Lawrence Renes, is an excellent partner in crime, particularly in the disc’s vibrant Mozart and Rossini selections. Think you own enough recordings of these arias? Give Mattei a chance to change your mind.