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.
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