Last Saturday, we heard a soprano voice on the cusp of greatness. Nicole Cabell, 28, BBC Cardiff Singer of the World in 2005, joined [Raymond] Leppard in one of his most interesting programs, mixing periods and styles, yet tying them together with a neat Christmas bow.
Cabell was introduced during the Messiah excerpts. Possessing a full-bodied, well-projecting operatic soprano voice, this native Californian never crosses that boundary into the wobbly opulence so common among lesser singers. Her breath and vibrato control during the recitatives were astonishing enough — and she is young enough — that she seems destined to become one of our future international divas (hopefully without developing the “prima donna” complex shown by some). She’s already within a hair’s breadth (or a diva’s breath) of being there.
Leppard offered his arrangement of a sequence of six traditional carols he calls Past Three O’Clock, for voice and orchestra. Some of these are interconnected with chimes, coupling Christmas color with Cabell’s superlative voice... The concert had to be encored with the universally loved “Sheep May Safely Graze” from Bach’s Cantata #208. And a Karen Moratz-Robin Peller flute duo provided luscious playing to complement Cabell’s luscious singing.