Tuesday, April 17, 2007

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.

No comments: