Went to the Met for Manon Lescaut last night - Karita Mattila was sensational, as expected, but as many have remarked, not very Italianate. In her case, in this opera's case, this did not bother me - I do not anticipate being happy with her Tosca, slated to open the Met in a couple of seasons. Frankly, I would rather hear her as Arabella, or Vitellia, or Emilia Marty - or Isolde, but I'm sure she'd never take that on. (Alas. Maybe on records only, like Margaret Price.)
Italian opera of the Verdi-Puccini-verismo stripe, in any case, calls for a voice in the red or red-orange spectrum. Mattila has a blue-gold voice. On my very personal “color” scale for voices, Ponselle is the only true red. Tebaldi is cherry red with magenta highlights, Ricciarelli candy apple red, De los Angeles an elegant cerise, Callas, Freni and Scotto various shades of orange, Caballé crimson, Price umber, Sutherland blue in her early days, purple later on, Sills a metallic yellow edged in chartreuse (an ugly shade) – and Mattila is blue-gold.
Nothing could be more subjective. With the right crowd and the right records and the right 420, we could keep this debate going for hours.