Friday, May 04, 2007

Nicole's Soprano Album wins Georg Solti Gold Orpheus in Paris

Hier soir (2 Mai 2007) à l’Opéra Bastille, comme chaque année, l’Académie du Disque Lyrique a remis ses Orphées d’Or 2007

Prix Georg Solti
Orphée consacrant les débuts d’une jeune carrière discographique : Nicole Cabell pour Soprano avec le London Philharmonic dirigé par Andrew Davis (Decca).

The Académie du Disque Lyrique held its prize-giving ceremony at the Opéra Bastille in Paris on 2nd May 2007. The prizes are known as the Orphées d'Or.

The Georg Solti Prize was awarded to a young discographic career:
Nicole Cabell for Soprano with the London Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Andrew Davis (Decca).

For the complete list of awards, see list here

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Sexy Divas Boosting Classical Music Biz

Classical music sales have risen 11.7% since 2003 thanks in part to the popularity of Russia's Anna Netrebko and other female vocalists

Since Russian singer Anna Netrebko appeared on the scene, cash registers are finally ringing again in the classical music industry. Record companies are pushing a steady stream of new female vocalists -- but being a diva nowadays requires much more than just talent.
The list of requirements sounds daunting: slim as a model, sexy as a pop star and blessed with a magical voice capable of beguiling the masses. Think Kate Moss meets Christina Aguilera and Maria Callas. Deutsche Grammophon's sister company Decca is serving up American soprano Nicole Cabell, 29, whose repertoire could best be characterized as a pleasant operatic potpourri.

For complete article, see
Translated from the German by Christopher Sultan

Saturday, April 28, 2007

The Gramophone ~ Editor's Choice May 2007

Solo Recital Debut Album Review (3)

An impressive debut recital by this young American prize-winner

Here's an hour of enchantment from the American soprano who won the 2005 Cardiff Singer of the World. There she swept the board with her final item, Teresa's taxing but rewarding aria from Benvenuto Cellini. Here it forms the centrepiece of a recital that takes her with extreme accomplishment through a varied programme.

Perhaps the French pieces suit her best of all, and she seems happy singing in the language. She delivers Juliette's Waltz Song with insouciance with insouciance, then follows it with a deeply soulful account of Juliette's last-act aria. "Depuis le jour" is right up there among the best of the past, with the high note towards the end, touched with pure lightness. The dash of the bolero from Les filles de Cadix is as fitting as it should be.

But Cabell can do many other things so well as to satisfy the most fastidious connoisseur of fine singing. Her bel canto skills are disclosed in Julietta's opening aria from Capuleti, with the even legato a pleasure to encounter. Norina's flighty aria from Don Pasquale isdone with just the requisite allure.

The two popular Puccini arias again show off her clear, clean tone and secure technique, even if one would sometimes like a bit more light and shade in her bright voice.

It's big leap from there to Tippett's A Child of Our Time, but once more Cabell gives every evidence that she knows what she is about and the aching phrases hanging in the air. The Menotti aria is well sung but musically nothing special; "Summertime" gets a lovely reading.

Sir Andrew Davis and the LPO find the right mood for each piece in turn and the recording is faultless. Who knows, maybe Decca has a new Sutherland in view.

Alan Blythe

The Gramophone
May 2007

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

"Meet the New Gheorghiu"

By Fiona Maddocks,


Turning singing stars into performing monkeys is nothing new - but antics are becoming ever more part of the job.

Last week on Radio 4's Today programme, the teenage soprano Hayley Westenra tried to prove that her stratospheric top notes could make a dog bark. She failed.

The dog barely growled, though her agent must have been purring at the peak-time exposure, never mind his client's red face.

And last week in Milan, world-class tenor Juan Diego Flórez broke all La Scala taboos by encoring an aria so that he could sing his virtuosic high Cs again.

The American-born Nicole Cabell, 29, winner of 2005 Cardiff Singer of the World, is made of different, sterner stuff. In London for the launch of her debut album of operatic arias from Donizetti to Gershwin, the fastrising soprano finds such behaviour deeply embarrassing.

"I guess we all have to work harder to keep ahead of the game," she acknowledges. "Music colleges are like opera factories churning out hopefuls - but there's a limit.

"Singing is not about high notes and acrobatics. It's about telling a story. All I want is to take the ego out of the equation.

"The idea of encoring a top note, or even stopping to take a bow in the middle of a performance after a showy aria - aagh! The very thought. I can't do all that prima donna stuff."

This elegant and articulate Californian clutches her throat in horror at the idea. Still hardly known here, except to those who delighted in her Cardiff success, Cabell is every inch the glamorous star, with a light, silvery voice equally at home in Italian and French repertoire as in Cole Porter.

"I love doing popular American music. That's my heritage. But I'm not a jazz singer. I prefer to do what's written down."

Cardiff has thrust her into the elevated company of past winners such as Bryn Terfel, Dmitri Hvorostovsky and Katerina Karneus.

Her international career is taking off and she has been touted as "the next Angela Gheorghiu", not unreasonably since her first career break came when she stood in at short notice in Berlin for that ultimate celebrity diva, in Roméo et Juliette.

"I did it at a day's notice on only three hours' sleep and with no rehearsal. I've never been so nervous. I knew the role, but I had no idea how my voice was projecting in a new acoustic."

She hasn't yet met Gheorghiu but will sing Musetta to her Mimi in a Chicago Bohème next season.

"Angela can get away with it," she says, tacitly acknowledging that "doing an Angela" has become common operatic parlance for throwing a strop.

"She's a master of the business of self-presentation. It's part of her persona. Some singers are chameleons, always reinventing themselves, like Madonna.

"But by contrast, take Renée Fleming. She's a star, but she deals with it brilliantly. She's much more down-to-earth. Dawn Upshaw is another."

Cabell sees herself more in this Fleming-Upshaw mould, naming those singers as musical role models.
"Maybe it's a lot to do with how you grow up, whether you have to fight to get away from your childhood circumstances, as Angela did in Romania, or whether you're happy with your surroundings and don't need to kick back so much. I had a pretty steady home life."

Her mother, "a stay-home mom", taught Nicole and her brother herself when they were tiny - "so by the time I went to school I was a grade ahead."

Money was scarce but education valued.
So, too, was the sense of community. Her grandfather was the first African-American police chief in Los Angeles, her father a policeman and other members of the family have been FBI agents.
"Yes, you could say we're big on law enforcement in the Cabell family! I wasn't aware of much violence or dirty stuff. I never thought my father would run into trouble.

"There was always a sense of wanting to do well in life. Every time we saw Tiger Woods on the TV, my mother would say, 'Now he's an example to follow'."

This is a reference to Cabell's mixed race, which she perceives as central to her identity.
"It's a case of embracing everything, not saying no to anything. My mother always used to say, when you fill in a form and it asks about race, never put 'other'. Tick the boxes for all the things you are." In Cabell's case this is African, American, Korean and Caucasian, visible in her striking, sharp cheek-boned, perfect oval face.
"I feel that I'm all these races. I'm excited watching Barack Obama, especially since I now live in Illinois. The idea of our own mixed-race senator being a presidential candidate makes me proud."

School music, in the southern Californian town of Ventura where she grew up, was limited. "I played flute in Junior High School, and had a natural musical ability, but it was all marching bands and sport and I thought: no way."

She only started singing at the age of 16. "I was crooning along to Kiri on a CD of my mother's, just fooling around. She was the one who said I really sounded like an opera singer and I should do something about it. I was more into bands like Def Leppard, Guns N' Roses and Nirvana."
She acknowledges that much as she loves the classical music she sings, she does not always find it easy.
"I'm like anyone of my generation. I've got a very short attention span. I have to work hard to get to know the music. I didn't even see an opera until I was at college."
One of her most valuable tools is her iPod, which she uses to help her learn roles. "I play it the whole time and spend a lot of time downloading, mostly CDs because I'm always on the road.

But if I'm not working, I'm as likely to be listening to Joni Mitchell or The Doors. You won't find a singer who'd listen to an opera for pleasure when they've been singing one all day! We need a break."

As she points out, opera was - broadly speaking - the pop of its time, and her appetite for all kinds of music, including rock, remains voracious.
"It's important for any performer to know what's going on, what's current. But it's hard to get Americans interested in opera. They tend to think going to a Broadway show is as good as it gets, culturally. It's so different in London."

How so? "I've heard that glamorous couples wanting a good night out go to the opera and drink champagne!" She is rumoured to be making her Royal Opera debut next season, when she can test out her wild hypothesis.
The surprise is the degree to which Cabell resists the spotlight at all. "Yes, I've had stage fright. But once I'm up there, doing it, I love it."

She always imagined herself as a backroom girl, perhaps working behind the scenes in the film industry, as a writer or producer.

"I'm a real home body. Living in California, Hollywood was always there as part of the backdrop of childhood.

My best thing, if not going shopping, is being in a room on my own, sitting down for five hours and writing fiction. One day I'll go back to it, but for the moment I've got my hands full."

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Forthcoming appearances

Fresh from triumphs in Europe, soprano Nicole Cabell returns in May to the scene of one her earlier successes, Indianapolis. Cabell appears in two programs with the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra — she sings the soprano solo in Brahms's German Requiem and then returns to the orchestra a week later to perform arias from Gounod's Roméo et Juliette, Gustave Charpentier's Louise and Donizetti's Don Pasquale. Cabell, a 29-year-old Californian, drew international attention in December when she stepped in to sing the lead role in a concert performance of Roméo et Juliette at Berlin's Deutsche Oper on just a few hours notice after Angela Gheorghiu withdrew. But her career was already taking off: since winning the BBC Cardiff Singer of the World competition in 2005, she has been attracting fans at many major opera houses. Her first engagement in Indianapolis came in December 2005, when she sang memorable renditions of Handel arias under the direction of Raymond Leppard as part of the Indianapolis Symphony's Christmas program. Cabell's upcoming calendar includes appearances at the Santa Fe Opera, her debut at the Metropolitan Opera and return engagements with Lyric Opera of Chicago and the Royal Opera (Covent Garden) in London.

Solo Recital Debut Album Review (2)

Nicole Cabell - Soprano
CD Reviews (2)

Liquid gold

Nicole Cabell’s CD debut, as winner of the 2005 BBC Cardiff Singer of the World, shows versatility as this American lyric soprano’s strength. She encompasses Tippett and Menotti with the same voice of liquid gold as her conventional pieces by Charpentier and Donizetti. In her three Puccini arias she can sculpt slow legato phrases with a sensuality that twine them around you. Yet her rapid floridity is fearless in the long arias by Bellini and Berlioz. Her Gershwin “Summertime” is refreshingly direct. An outstanding launch.

by Ian Dando
NZ Listener
April 28-May 4 2007

Geoff Brown
The Times
March 16, 2007

Events moved fast once the American soprano Nicole Cabell won the BBC Cardiff Singer of the World contest in June 2005 with a lyric voice one part silver, one part gold and another part intoxicating red wine.

She signed an exclusive contract with one of the ritziest of record companies, Decca. Over Christmas week of that year the microphones sprouted to catch her in a motley programme with the London Philharmonic, featuring her Cardiff show stopper from Benvenuto Cellini , Gershwin’s Summertime , Charpentier, several Italian diva jewels, even a little Tippett.

Odd, then, that the release should dawdle into the shops so late. Odd, and a mite unfair. For Cabell, 30 this year, has a voice still in the process of cultivation, and some of the blemishes strewn about — bald spots on top, some gabbled words, suspect trills, patches of intonation best not examined under a strong light — might well have faded with more time for nurturing.

Still, the CD catches her at a moment in her career. If we miss the ultimate in polish, we get plenty of raw promise, and that promise can be exceptional. Try her glissando down to the close of Summertime : an occasion for the tingling of spines.

Listen to her float the last line of Quando me’n vò , from La Boheme . In general the romantic yearning in Puccini’s music suits her; she glows especially in the arias from Gianni Schicchi and La Rondine , luxuriating in the long, ambulating melodies, phrased with considerable skill.

Andrew Davis, who’s conducted her often at Lyric Opera of Chicago, conjures luscious accompaniments from the London Philharmonic; the horn player Timothy Brown well deserves a bow of his own.

In repertoire Cabell is plucky. How often does Puccini walk with Tippett? What other recitalist embraces Menotti? Her track from his opera The Old Maid and the Thief isn’t the CD’s most successful, but you have to applaud someone not content with trodden paths.

Presenting Cabell’s trophy at Cardiff, Joan Sutherland warned her: “Don’t do too much too soon.” Words worth pondering; and from some angles maybe she’s already recorded too soon.
But when that voice is kept focused, its power and heat are undeniable. Nicole Cabell, soprano, is not going to go away.
Last month we had the opportunity to hear a singer we had never heard before, soprano Nicole Cabell, performing the role of Clara, in Gershwin’s Porgy & Bess, and we were impressed with her sound.
Now comes a new, recording under the DECCA label featuring Ms. Cabell in a debut album (due in May, 07) under her own name. The singer comes highly recommended, having won the BBCs Cardiff Singer of the World Competition in 2005, listing credits and reviews worthy of a talent in clear ascendancy – which she obviously is. For this debut CD she chooses some of what she likes best. “I wanted to sing not simply pieces that I love,” she is quoted in her acknowledgement, “but the music that I believe fits my voice.” A lyric soprano with punch, Ms. Cabell, glides effortlessly through a series of well known arias in English, French and Italian, culling some of the best from composers such as Puccini, Gounod, Gershwin, Bellini, Donizetti. With superb accompaniment from Maestro Davis and the London Philharmonic Orchestra, Ms. Cabell gives a strong accounting of herself and leaves no doubt that no matter how many times one hears “O mio babbino caro,” (Gianni Schicchi) or “Quando m’en vo,” (La boheme) which she will be performing in concert this month with Anna Netrebko and Rolando Villazon, there’s still room for hearing and enjoying it anew from a different voice with a slightly different interpretation. Everything one reads about this voice is true: smooth legato, florid passages and delightful coloratura – and we might add with this debut CD, a nice selection of music that will satisfy most tastes with its even thematic presentation. Our personal favorite? Charpentier’s soulful “Depuis le jour où je me suis donnée (Louise), but then, there are many favorites on this CD.
Dominic McHugh
Musical Criticism. Com

Arrogant though it may sound, I knew from the moment Nicole Cabell first opened her mouth at the Cardiff Singer of the World competition in 2005 that she was going to win. It was obvious that here was a singer with the complete package: vocal beauty, intelligence, stunning good looks, poise, communication – and, more than anything, a star quality that marked her out as special.

This debut CD satisfies on almost every level and, as with her programme for Cardiff, she presents a thoughtful and unusual programme that avoids, for the most part, the usual bleeding chunks that have been recorded to death. Have no fear, though: here are Musetta’s ‘Quando me n’vò’, Magda’s ‘Chi il bel sogno di Doretta’ and Lauretta’s ‘O mio babbino caro’, sung with loveliness and a true sense of the meaning of the lyrics. Cabell’s rich tone is ideal for Puccini and these tracks indicate the promise of some exciting portrayals of his soprano roles in coming years. Indeed, she is about to record La bohème with Netrebko and Villazón for Deutsche Grammophon and
will appear as Musetta at Covent Garden in July 2008.

But what excites me here is the inclusion of arias by Berlioz, Tippett and Menotti that on the one hand show Cabell’s flexibility as an artist and on the other make me want to revisit complete recordings of these pieces. The aria by Berlioz with which she brought the house down at Cardiff, ‘Entre l’amour et le devoir’ from Benvenuto Cellini, is equally impressive here. The voice is amazingly focussed and secure, ringing in the top register, and she spits the words out with exhilarating attack. ‘What a curse for woman is a timid man!’ from Menotti’s The Old Maid and the Thief finds the artist in equally thoughtful and inspiring form, while ‘How can I cherish my man in such days’ from A Child of Our Time is distinguished for Cabell’s complete change of character: the quality in her voice becomes more restrained and mournful to reflect the wartime context of Tippett’s lament.

Gounod’s Juliet is represented by two arias, namely the waltz and the potion aria. The former is wonderfully vivid and flirtatious, even if Cabell seems hard pushed occasionally with the faster coloratura passages (though it’s still exhilarating and would probably bring the house down if sung live with such emotion); the latter is the highlight – deeply emotive and capturing the suffering and experience of the young woman. Bellini’s Juliet (from I Capuleti e I Montecchi) is another imaginative and welcome inclusion and again a very assured and composed performance. Like Juliet’s waltz, Norina’s aria from Donizetti’s Don Pasquale is perhaps a bit hard-driven, but two French arias – Delibes’ Les Filles de Cadix and Charpentier’s ‘Depuis le jour’ from Louise – denote a repertoire that will serve the singer very well in the opera house. The Charpentier in particular lies ideally for her voice and is simply breathtaking.

Without doubt, though, the most personal performance on the disc is ‘Summertime’ from the Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess. Cabell’s part Afro-American background no doubt influenced her hugely sensitive interpretation of the aria. It’s the icing on the cake of a nearly perfect recording that has stayed in my CD player for days.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

The Year of Musetta

Netrebko, Villazon and Cabell in La Bohème

Nicole Cabell will sing Musetta in Puccini's La Bohème with Anna Netrebko as Mimi and Rolando Villazon as Rodolfo at the Bayerische Rundfunk, Munich for three concert performances on 12, 14 and 17 April 2007 with the Bavarian Symphony Orchestra and Chrorus under the leadership of Bertrand de Billy. The performances will be recorded for CD release by Deutsche Grammophon.

Nicole will continue to sing Musetta in the summer at the Santa Fe Opera from 29 June until 25 August, under the baton of
Corrado Rovaris in a new production by Paul Curran with Jennifer Black/Serena Farnocchia (Mimi), Gwyn Hughes Jones/Dimitri Pittas (Rodolfo) and Corey McKern/James Westman (Marcello). In September 7 at Washington National Opera under Emmanuel Villaume and in October/November in Chicago, it's Musetta again under the baton of Sir Andrew Davis with Angela Gheorghiu / Serena Farnocchia (Mimi), Roberto Aronica / Gwyn Hughes Jones (Rodolfo), and Quinn Kelsey (Marcello) in a production by Renata Scotto.

Gramophone Editor's Choice

From the hundreds of classical CDs Gramophone reviews each month, editor James Inverne (formerly James Jolly) selects 10 outstanding recordings to be the Editor's Choice.

The Gramophone Awards - often called the Oscars of the classical music world - are the most significant honours bestowed on the classical record industry.

Onew of the 10 selections for May 2007 is Nicole Cabell's Soprano Solo Album for Decca.

Solo Recital Debut Album Review (1)

Recital Debut Album:
Soprano Review (1)
The Cardiff Singer of the World competition has been a springboard to fame for many present day stars. One need only mention names like Karita Mattila, Dmitri Hvorostovsky, Bryn Terfel and Lisa Gasteen. Last time, in 2005, the winner was California-born soprano Nicole Cabell, who was immediately signed up by Decca and recorded her debut recital in December that year. With the London Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Sir Andrew Davis backing her the conditions of the project are the best possible. The playing is certainly superb, further enhanced by the excellent recording.

As for the singer, her first phrases of the well-known waltz aria from La Bohème made me sit up. Here was a voice with a personal timbre: bright, vibrant and with a ring that one more associates with heavier repertoire. It soon turned out that it was not just a voice: her phrasing was so natural, carefully judged no doubt but not in that calculated way that cries out: Listen! How good I am! This was something that came from within, from conviction rather than complacency. What I also felt though was a certain coldness. True, Musetta is a calculating woman but she is also warm and flirtatious, which didn’t quite come through in this reading. The tempo was certainly on the slow side but the singing wasn’t alluring enough. The next aria, also in ¾ time, the quick and virtuoso waltz from Roméo et Juliette, revealed that Ms Cabell’s trill and coloratura technique is in perfect shape. It was a true pleasure to hear this music sung with such full tone yet with elegance and lightness, but even here I missed some warmth.
Recitals of this kind tend to centre upon roughly the same hackneyed standard arias. This is natural enough, but Cabell was bold enough to include several rare numbers. The beautiful aria from the late lamented Gian-Carlo Menotti’s The Old Man and the Thief was an inspired choice and here, singing in her mother tongue, she appeared as warmer while retaining some steel in the voice. Indeed this was great singing, expressive and with well judged pianissimos. The dramatic act 4 aria from Roméo et Juliette also suited her better than the fairly empty waltz and here she created a character with face. She delivered a beautiful O mio babbino caro but, as with the Musetta aria, a little short on charm. For Les filles de Cadix she lightened the tone, it was lively and bouncy, impeccable singing but again that last ounce of charm, of caressing the phrases, was missing.
As Clara in Porgy and Bess she sang the famous lullaby with exquisite shadings, elegant portamenti and a slightly laid back, jazzy feeling. The same can be said of her excellent reading of How can I cherish my man in such days from Michael Tippett’s A Child of our Time, where she demonstrated her fine breath control. I haven’t seen the aria from Benvenuto Cellini included in a recital for ages, so this was another good choice. This three-part piece sets the soprano to severe test, especially the fast cabaletta-like third part. She came out of it with flying colours, showing off a perfect trill in the cadenza. It’s a far cry to the inward Louise aria, which she sang in long phrases and scaled down towards the end to a near whisper. Impressive!
The long aria from I Capuleti e i Montecchi, Bellini’s “Romeo and Juliet” opera, though not based on Shakespeare, opened with Timothy Brown playing the beautiful horn solo delivering an exquisite round tone. Ms Cabell’s opening phrase presented us with a nervously trembling Juliet. Then when the horn came back for a duet with the soprano there was a nice contrast between the mellow instrument and the bright voice. Helen Tunstall’s harp accompaniment to the aria proper should also be mentioned. Overall this aria was one of the most successful in the whole recital.
She may not have the creamy tones one ideally wants in Doretta’s dream but it was still a well considered reading with sensitive phrasing. The concluding aria, Norina’s entrance piece from Don Pasquale, was lively and up to the demands on nearly all accounts. Vocally it couldn’t be bettered, but I missed a smile in the voice – it was too straight-faced. But she is at the very beginning of her career and more stage experience will certainly add to her already well endowed armoury of expressive means. For pure singing she is full-fledged already. Indeed it is a remarkable voice and I am already longing to hear more from her – why not a complete opera? There is for example some Menotti to be recorded.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

We loves you, Porgy

New Porgy and Bess out on disc

True confessions: until the release of Decca's new Porgy and Bess, I haven't much cared about the two stupid questions that won't go away: Is the Gershwins' Porgy and Bess a real opera, and if so, is it a great one? If Berg's Lulu is an opera, and great (both articles of faith with me), why not Porgy?

But the real reason I haven't bothered about it is that, until now, I've never heard a performance of Porgy (live or recorded) that did much for me. Now having been knocked sideways by this Porgy and Bess, brilliantly led by John Mauceri, I'm on board. This is great stuff.

The ostensible selling point of this Porgy is, of all things, the version. The work of a posse of Gershwin scholars including Mauceri, it is the first recorded Porgy that reflects the show the Gershwins and DuBoses continuously refined for its 1935 Broadway premiere, the tour that followed, and, after Gershwin's death in 1937, a California tour in 1938.

Most performances since 1938 have been based on the original printed score, which was published before the Broadway premiere and really counts as the creators' first, not final, thoughts on it. The Gershwin scholars (fanatics all) behind this new version have scoured all of the available performing materials to arrive at an accurate version of the 1935 performing score, which, just for starters, shaves an hour (and a CD) off the three-and-a-half-hour running time of the "original." In their own words, it "restores the cuts." Take that, authenticists!

Still, musicology, however keen, has never sold audiences on anything. This Porgy
will snag you with its vitality — make that spunk. Mauceri makes good on his assertion that "Porgy and Bess is our great American opera." It's as true to life and involving as you could stand it to be.
The previous Porgys I know have fallen somewhere between overwrought musicals and awkward, self-conscious operas. But Mauceri's instincts for musical theater rival the masters'. This Porgy isn't just "right." It grabs you from its first gesture — a big, Rhapsody in Blue-like glissando — then, in the language of music theater, never lets you go.

With most new critical editions, only experts can hear all but a few of the changes. I can't say that I noticed all of the "literally thousands" of changes the Porgy sleuths have made, but scarcely a second passes without something sounding new, and better. The brighter, jazzier colors in the final instrumentation are only the most obvious improvements. More important, in their fleet new shapes, whole scenes sweep away the old and replace it with something infinitely more believable and striking.

Before spinning these discs, I watched the EMI DVD of the Glyndebourne Porgy, with Simon Rattle leading a highly conscientious reading of the "complete" opera. Its merits notwithstanding, it's a proper, British Porgy that tries so hard to get the idiom right and not offend that it's always walking on eggs. Gratifying as it is that Rattle gives the same attention to Porgy as he does to Fidelio, Mauceri (who's also conducted Fidelio at the Met, and Lulu in SF) drives a performance perhaps only an American could. He and his musicians, including the ace Nashville Symphony Orchestra and Chorus, are steeped in the idiom, nail it, and give us a Porgy that sizzles.
To a one, Mauceri's singers are fine vocalists, but not one of them would settle for that alone. Their performances are amply operatic, whatever that means, but artistically at least, these risk-takers exchange vital body fluids, some of which also get on you. You get all snaggled up in their beautiful, sad, messy lives, and when was the last time that happened to you at the opera?
Instead of making a meal of "Summertime," as every soprano I've heard sing it has, Nicole Cabell's Clara makes a picnic of it, beautifully foreshadowing the actual picnic a short act away. Bess' short revival of it as a lullaby, as she watches over Clara's child, is charged with undertones of the danger that infuses the daily lives of these pithy survivors.
Alvy Powell's Porgy is, despite being a paraplegic, no Goody Two-Shoes, yet he's never less than sympathetic. Marquita Lister gives us a Bess (who, despite Porgy's famous tune, is three different men's woman at some point) who actually sounds different when she's with each of them.
Shining like a klieg light over his brilliant colleagues is Robert Mack's vocally snazzy, dramatically savvy Sporting Life. You only think you know "It Ain't Necessarily So" and "There's a Boat Dat's Leaving Soon for New York."
In the irrefutable words of the chorus, "Oh, I can't sit down."

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Nicole's début at Carnegie Hall

... Anyone who was at
Carnegie last night enjoyed an unforgettable experience. There is a difference between high school and adult choirs, and it's one that the Viennese and Anglicans have known for at least 600 years. Young voices have a more pure tone, a more silken texture than mature voices, and their sound filled the Isaac Stern Auditorium last night with an incandescent glow. Close your eyes, and you might have imagined you were sitting in a great Gothic cathedral.

The first half of the program featured each of the four choirs singing a capella or piano arrangements of various hymns and songs, conducted by their regular choral directors. The selections ranged from Jan Sweelink's 1626 setting of Psalm 96, to the Latin hymn Lux Aurumque, written in 2000 by 36 year old Eric Whitacre. I felt a bit uneasy when the Bentonville High School Chamber Choir - a public high school - chose to perform a rousing Gospel song called Worthy to Be Praised, but it got by far the biggest ovation of the night.
After the intermission, the combined choirs - nearly 200 singers in all - were joined by the Orchestra of St. Luke's for Stravinsky's Symphony of Psalms and Poulenc's Gloria. Dr. Jessop paused to say a few words beforehand, reminding us that these works were challenging for an adult choir to pull off, much less high school students. In the Gloria, the choir was joined by the talented American soprano Nicole Cabell, who made her Covent Garden debut this season and is engaged to sing at the Met in upcoming seasons. Her voice had a dark radiance, effectively penetrating the huge sound projecting from behind her.
After the music ended, Jessop brought out all the individual choral directors to share in the huge standing ovation, a moment they seemed to cherish even more than the kids, who will likely have to wait for their grandchildren to realize just how magical last night was.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Imelda de’ Lambertazzi

Reviews of Imelda de' Lambertazzi at Queen Elizabeth Hall, London

It used to be assumed that because Donizetti had composed so many operas – his nickname was “Dozzinetti”, man of the dozen – only a handful could withstand serious consideration. That view is looking increasingly suspect, thanks to a recent surge of recordings, revivals and research. There is much more to him than Lucia di Lammermoor, Maria Stuarda and Don Pasquale – if only we would open our ears. Intelligently prepared concert performances such as this, promoted by Opera Rara and the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, reveal a dramatist of consistency and daring.
It’s hardly surprising that Imelda de’Lambertazzi, first produced in Naples in 1830 and then virtually forgotten for 150 years, disconcerted its early listeners. There was no overture, remarkably little vocal decoration, scarcely a pause for reflection. The drama came first, second and third, making for a wonderfully compact score that Verdi must surely have learned from a decade later. Here is a composer not pandering to expectations but breaking new ground – and paying heavily for it.

The plot, drawn from medieval Bolognese chronicles, is a standard tale of tragic love snared by the feuding of two powerful families. What distinguishes Imelda from other such operatic fables is that it’s not the tenor who gets the woman but Bonifacio the baritone – a quirk of circumstance, dictated by Donizetti’s recognition of the outstanding gifts of Antonio Tamburini, destined to become one of the most famous baritones of his day.
James Westman took some time to get inside the part: his voice, well-produced but not specially interesting, summoned the necessary intensity only in the second half. Nicole Cabell’s Imelda was mistress of the beautifully spun line, albeit short of expressive vulnerability. The real fireworks came from two well- contrasted tenors – Massimo Giordano, wonderfully Italianate as the brutish young Lorenzo, and Frank Lopardo, singing as handsomely as he has ever done in the father-role of Orlando. The OAE relished Donizetti’s primary orchestral timbres, and Mark Elder’s conducting generated tremendous heat and stylistic assurance.

Andrew Clark, Financial Times, March 15, 2007

Do you like your Donizetti rare, or well done? Well, when Opera Rara joins forces with Mark Elder and the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment you relish it both ways at once.
Composed just before Anna Bolena , Donizetti's Imelda de’ Lambertazzi was scarcely heard in 20th-century Europe until 1989 — and not a lot thereafter. It’s a promising Romeo and Juliet of a story, with the feuding between the Bolognese families of Ghibellines and Guelphs. But it was thought to lack certain essentials, such as an overture and a proper finale, and it has surprisingly little fancy vocal writing. In other words, it’s lean: it’s very much a drama of personal encounter and confrontation. What better candidate for a concert performance with period instruments?
From the tense drum roll of the opening to the lone trumpeter high in the stalls, Mark Elder and the OAE had a capacity audience on the edge of its seats. A sombre chorus of national mourning, sung by the fine Geoffrey Mitchell Choir, and well worthy of Verdi, seduced the ear. And within the first ten minutes two tenors, father and son in the tale, were belting out exhortations to glory, honour and victory.
What more could anyone want? Well, a starry as well as a star-crossed Imelda, of course. And there she was in the person of the soprano Nicole Cabell, mourning in mellifluous melody for all mothers; ardently and stylishly declaring her love for Bonifacio; and finally, with Richard Lester’s solo cello, sighing and sobbing her last as she expires. The two tenors were magnificently matched. Frank Lopardo was rhythmically incisive as Imelda’s father, Orlando; and the Pompeii-born Massimo Giordano unleashed pyroclastic flows of anger and vengeance as her brother Lamberto. The baritone James Westman as Bonifacio was a little backward in coming vocally forward; but Brindley Sherratt was a formidable bass Ubaldo.
Best of all, there was the orchestra: the OAE responded to Elder's superbly paced direction with alacrity and a true sense of adventure.

Hilary Finch, Times on Line, March 14, 2007

The more you hear Opera Rara's revivals of Donizetti's lesser known works, the more you have to confront the composer's fascination with the macabre. At the end, the heroine kills herself by sucking poisoned blood from her lover's corpse. It is a measure of Donizetti's genius that when this potentially ludicrous moment arrives, it strikes us as a logical denouement.
First performed in 1830, the opera is a study of sectarian violence. In 13th-century Bologna, two aristocratic families, the Lambertazzi and the Gieremei, are waging urban war. Imelda is carrying on a clandestine affair with Bonifacio, heir to the Gieremei estates. Discovery of their relationship escalates the slaughter. Imelda's father Orlando rejects her as she dies, while her brother Lamberto, unhealthily obsessed with her sexuality, looks vindictively on.

Donizetti drags us through this tale at breakneck speed, dismantling operatic convention as he goes. The doomed lovers, unusually, are soprano and baritone. The Lambertazzi patriarchy consists of preening tenors. Sustaining the relentless tension is hell for the performers and it is here that the problems with Opera Rara's revival set in.
Donizetti presents Imelda as tough, though Nicole Cabell makes her genteel. Similarly, James Westman's handsomely sung Bonifacio seems bland. The persistent fire in the performance came from Mark Elder's ferocious conducting, and from Frank Lopardo and Massimo Giordano, both on blazing form as the father and son. The nightmarish atmosphere was immeasurably heightened by the abrasive sound of the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment.

Tim Ashley,The Guardian,Wednesday March 14, 2007

Forgotten drama packs a mighty punch

It's a measure of Donizetti's extraordinarily prolific output that although Imelda de' Lambertazzi is listed as his 29th opera, it still ranks as an early work.

Nothing about it seems hesitant, however - it's a rough, tough melodrama on a Romeo and Juliet theme, in which the Bolognese clans the Guelphs and the Ghibellines take the place of the Veronese Capulets and Montagues.
Imelda has been largely forgotten since its first performances in 1830, and even the post-war revival of enthusiasm for Donizetti has to my knowledge given rise to only one modern performance, in Lugano in 1989.
Nobody thinks it a masterpiece: the musicologist William Ashbrook, writing before this exhumation, was positively sniffy about its fustian dramatic coarseness, deeming it of interest only for its unconventional choice of a baritone for its hero and the fact that it was composed a few months before Donizetti's first great work, Anna Bolena.
But Imelda certainly packs a punch.
Musically muscular and forceful, it contains only two full-scale arias and proceeds instead through violent confrontations, declamatory recitative, and noisy choruses and ensembles.
There is a marked lack of coloratura padding or incidental frippery, and the action is so relentlessly fast that one is left wishing for a little more light and shade or an extended episode of lyrical repose.
At Opera Rara's concert performance (which was being recorded), Mark Elder proved a superb advocate for the score's defence.
Like those other great conductors of early 19th-century Italian opera Riccardo Muti and Charles Mackerras, he allows no slacking or coasting, insisting that the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment gives full weight and attention to even the most trivial and clichéd of accompaniments and figurations.
The cast was fired by his blazing energy and cracking pace.
In the title role, Nicole Cabell sang with limpid tone and sensitivity: what a pity that her words were largely swallowed up by the hall's woolly acoustic.
James Westman's firm and elegant voice gave an admirable account of the baritone's big number, while Massimo Giordano and Frank Lopardo made the most of thankless secondary tenor roles.
It was an exhilarating performance, even though I doubt anyone was left particularly wanting to hear the opera again.
Next time he turns to Donizetti, Elder might like to address the more complex challenges offered by two still-underrated products of his maturity, Poliuto and Maria di Rohan.

Rupert Christiansen Daily Telegraph 12 March 2007

Friday, February 23, 2007

St John's, Smith Square Recital Reviews

The Rosenblatt Recital Series, which presents concerts around London from artists ranging from the well-known to the brand-new, last week showcased Nicole Cabell, the glamorous 29-year-old winner of the 2005 Cardiff Singer of the World competition.

Accompanied by pianist Simon Lepper, the American soprano tackled an impressive variety of repertoire. Her greatest strengths, it seems, lie in poetry and contemplative song. Three Liszt songs – ‘Es muss ein Wunderbares sein’, ‘Die Lorelei’ and ‘Enfant, si j’étais roi’ – held the audience spellbound as the voice seemed to become one with the accompaniment and indeed the piece. Later in the concert, Ben Moore’s Keats setting ‘Darkling I listen’ created a similar magic.

Yet in two Puccini favourites – ‘Quando me’n vo’’ (one of Cabell’s calling cards) and ‘Chi il bel sogno di Doretta’ — her tone was monochrome and there was little sense of character portrayal.
‘Padre, germani, addio’ from Idomeneo was imbued with urgency, while Bolcom’s ‘Amor’, was delivered with mischievous sparkle and wit. However in Gounod’s ‘Je veux vivre’ and (as an encore) Puccini’s ‘O mio babbino caro’, Cabell failed to set the hall alight, despite an unfailing sense of style and poise; her elegant, sophisticated presence just did not sit well with teenaged heroines, nor with the child subject of three songs from Bernstein’s ‘I hate music’.

In other offerings from American music theatre, Cabell proved herself as an entertainer; she struck just the right balance between schmaltz and musicality, a rare gift when presenting a mixed recital programme to a largely classical audience.

This was by no means a flawless recital, and perhaps the variety of repertoire was simply too great. Cabell’s Liszt interpretations alone proved her to be a young artist of exceptional promise; perhaps next time she should focus on such a strength and present it to the best of her ability.
Ruth Elleson

Opera Today
28 Feb 2007

It’s a voice that wraps itself around you. That is how Marilyn Horne described the lyric soprano of the Californian Nicole Cabell, who took first prize at the BBC Cardiff Singer of the Year in 2005 and who presented her solo calling card to London on Wednesday in her Rosenblatt Recital.

The voice does, indeed, have something of the pashmina about it: long, sinuous phrasing, warm tone and a sophistication that touches everything she sings. Cabell does no more and no less at present than simply sing the music that fits her voice best: Puccini, French opera and American song.

Every register of her voice is illuminated through her generous smile; there’s a sudden sense of lift-off into coloratura and an irresistible glide through every second of schmaltz. Whether experience or a new singing teacher will give her a wider palette of vocal colour, a sharper focus, a punchier edge to phrasing and inflection remains to be seen. But this audience was enthralled by her Musetta Quand m’en vo’ soletta per la via , by her Rondine Che il bel sogno di Doretta and by her Gounod Juliette Je veux vivre . She also brought close focus to three songs by Liszt, consummately accompanied by Simon Lepper.

And it was good to hear Ben Moore’s responses to Keats’s nightingale in his setting Darkling I listen , followed by a tricksy, witty performance of Amor , one of William Bolcom’s superb Cabaret Songs .

Hilary Finch The Times 23 February 2007

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Nicole talks about her career since Cardiff

Singer of the World list revealed

The 25 singers who will compete in "the world's greatest singer competition" - the BBC Cardiff Singer of the World title - have been revealed.

A record number of more than 1,000 auditioned and three countries make the final for the first time.

The competition, held every two years, has helped launch many international careers - including Bryn Terfel's.

Soprano Nicole Cabell, the 2005 winner, said she has had "a remarkable amount of good fortune" since her triumph.

"I've been all over the world. I can probably say most of my engagements have come on the heels of my Cardiff victory," said the American, whose debut solo CD is released in the UK soon.

"It's a fantastic start, I've no idea where I would be without it. I might be here, I might not but I certainly don't think I'd be here as quick or with such fortitude."

Since her win she has debuted at the Royal Opera House in London and has dates at opera houses on both sides of the Atlantic scheduled into her diary.

The names of the shortlist for the week of concerts in Cardiff in June were revealed on Thursday by BBC Wales controller Menna Richards.

This year's winner will receive increased prize money of £15,000 and may also have an opportunity to perform with the BBC and the Welsh National Opera.

Three countries - Estonia, Croatia and Uzbekistan - have competitors in the final for the first time. Singers from as far afield as Brazil, China, Australia and Norway will take part.

Ms Richards said: "Each BBC Cardiff Singer of the World competition brings the attention of the music world to Wales for this unique search for excellence in opera and song.

"Singers and audiences alike enjoy what are both fiercely contested competitions and an unparalleled experience for young singers.

The competition's patron Dame Joan Sutherland said she was eagerly looking forward to return to Wales to "the world's greatest singing competition".

She said: "I am delighted to see the huge success 2005's winner Nicole Cabell is now enjoying which she happily acknowledges was thanks to her success in Cardiff."

The competition was launched in 1983 with Finnish soprano Karita Mattila emerging winner.
In 1989 Bryn Terfel won the Lieder prize - the second part of the competition which is now known as the Song prize - and Russian baritone Dmitri Hvorostovsky the overall title.

From BBC News

Contest was a 'springboard' for past winner

The winner of the 2005 BBC Cardiff Singer of the World has revealed how the contest has boosted her career.

Nicole Cabell returned to the Welsh capital for yesterday's launch of the 2007 competition.

The American soprano's career has rocketed since she was awarded the prize.

She has won rave reviews on both sides of the Atlantic, including when she made her Royal Opera House debut.

She has also signed a contract with Decca and her first solo album will be launched in the spring.

She will also make her debut at New York's Metropolitan Opera in the coming months.

"The result of winning this competition is immeasurable," she said.

"It really is the one to win and the media exposure is priceless.

"The competition has been a springboard to many of my engagements, if not all of them."

Karen Price,
Western Mail,
IC Wales

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

New Solo Decca Album Sneak Preview

For details, tracklisting and other information, see this page

Idomeneo at the Deutsche Oper, Berlin

“The only singer who excelled was the young American Nicole Cabell as Ilia, a princess in love with Idamante. Her sound was delicate and agile, her phrasing intelligent and secure, and her stage manner touching. Against the background of this particular production, Cabell's success was all the more impressive.”
Warwick Thompson,
December 19, 2006

Nicole Cabell was the star of the evening, an appealing Ilia whose love for Idomeneo's son helps lead to redemption. She was lithe and evocative in voice, movement and facial expression, a perfect partner to Mihoko Fujimura, cast as Idamante, her love.”
George Jahn,

Associated Press,
December 18, 2006

“… And immediately, Nicole Cabell appeared on stage; she is a young soprano that one is more than willing to describe as an up-and-coming star. […] Mihoko Fujimura and Nicole Cabell then sing about life, about the precedence of love over the inexorable consequence of holy decrees. They sing with such glowing intensity that they could convince people contemplating suicide that life has a meaning. […] Enthusiastic applause greeted the singers, first and foremost Nicole Cabell.”
Harald Jähner,
Berliner Zeitung,
December 20, 2006

“Furthermore, there was Nicole Cabell’s enchanting Ilia, whose rosy timbre and secure soprano voice lent the evening its only ray of light.”
Christine Lemke-Matwey,

December 20, 2006

“Only Nicole Cabell as Ilia brought vocal glamour to the stage.”
Axel Brüggemann,

Frankfurter Rundschau,
December 20, 2006

Nicole Cabell, as the Trojan princess Ilia, displays a beautiful timbre.”
Julia Spinola,

Frankfurter Allgemeine,
December 18, 2006