Kate Royal, soprano – (VARIOUS COMPOSERS) – Academy of St. Martin in the Fields/ Edward Gardner – EMI
Kate Royal, soprano – (VARIOUS COMPOSERS) – Academy of St. Martin in the Fields/ Edward Gardner – EMI 946-3-94419-21, 65:00 ****:
I am skeptical of debut albums by young attractive singers. Sometimes the selections are over-weighted towards standards, other times the singer just tries to hard to demonstrate their singing chops. In the eponymous album Kate Royal this is not the case. Rather it is a charming, enthralling debut for a powerful and versatile singer with an already well-developed sense of proportion.
Her choices are, for the most part, certainly not standards. She sings less well-known pieces by Stravinsky, Debussy, Orff, and in a respectful nod to Spain, Granados and Rodrigo. In fact, she even picks Spanish-influenced pieces by Ravel (the stirring Vocalise en forme de habanera) and Delibes (the Carmen-like Les Filles de Cadix). The one nod to “warhorsery” comes with three pieces from Canteloube’s Chants d’Auvergne. Yet her version of his lovely Baïlièro is a passionate and restrained one. Plus you can almost picture her dancing to the lively Malurous qu’o uno fenno. A true professional, she resists the temptation to infuse renditions with breathy accents, wobbly vibrato, and other vocal tricks to snare the audience. Only 28 and she already knows how paved with hazards the showoff road can be.
She takes a chance with three arias from Stravinsky’s difficult The Rake’s Progress and it pays off. Again she resists turning his dramatic piece I go, I go to him into a virtuoso showcase piece, singing it subtly, holding back until the last forceful note. The deeply expressed arias by Granados and Rodrigo may whet your appetite for more from these composers. This woman does not yet specialize in the odd or obscure like Cecilia Bartoli, yet she does discover hidden prizes in the less well-known. About the only piece that seems a bit weak is the anonymous song The Sprig of Thyme, a sweet enough ditty, but cloying and non-complex. She could have chosen a stronger piece with which to end this sterling collection. Royal is a singer to watch. She is, as Jussi Bjorling once said of himself, “an honest singer.”
1. L’Enfant Prodigue: “L’année, en vain chasse l’année”: Air de Lia
2. Les Filles de Cadix “Chanson Espagnole”
3. Bailero (Chants d’Auvergne, 1st series, no.2)
4. Malurous qu’o uno fenno (Chants d’Auvergne, 3rd series, no.5)
5. Chants d’Auvergne: La Délaïssàdo (Series 2, No.4)
6. Vocalise en forme de habanera
7. The Rake’s Progress: Anne Truelove’s aria (Scene III)
8. The Rake’s Progress: Recitative & Aria “No word from Tom”
9. The Rake’s Progress: Cabaletta “I go, I go to him”
10. In Trutina (Carmina Burana)
11. Wiegenlied, Op. 41/1
12. Ich wollt ein Sträusslein binden, Op.68, No.2
13. Morgen, Op. 27/4
14. Sa maja ye el Ruisenor (The Lover & the Nightingale) from Goyescas
15. Cuatro Madrigales Amatorios (for medium voice): 1. Con qué la laveré?
16. Cuatro Madrigales Amatorios (for medium voice): 2. Vos me matásteis
17. Cuatro Madrigales Amatorios (for medium voice): 3. De dónde venis, amore?
18. Cuatro Madrigales Amatorios (for medium voice): 4. De los álamos vengo, madre
19. The Sprig of Thyme
— Peter Bates