Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Diva on Detour

I’m a fan of Patricia Racette, from the days of old when I was in the chorus of a regional opera company that hired Miss Racette to sing Nedda. I’ve been pleased to see the success she has attained in the years since then. Although I haven’t been able to attend any of her live performances since those days in the opera chorus, I’ve seen quite a number of YouTube videos that leave no doubts about her talent and magnetism.

Courtesy GPR Records
Imagine my delight when the kind folks at GPR Records invited me to Pat’s (we’re on first-names basis now) cabaret performances last spring, which were to be recorded for later release on a CD. Alas, I was forced to decline that invitation—I foolishly chose to fulfill commitments I had made previously. What a dolt I was! When the same kind folks sent me a pre-release copy of the CD based on that show, I could hear that it was an event I would surely have treasured in memory for a long time. Fortunately, a great amount of that feeling comes across in the CD, with Pat’s fine vocal stylings of a program of well-chosen standards and charming patter with the audience. Very fine music director and pianist is Craig Terry.

This is where I might expound upon the folly of crossover albums, because I don’t like so many that are out there. While it’s possible for a singer to do both opera and cabaret/musical theater effectively, far too many don’t bridge that gap very well. I’m happy to say Pat sounds perfectly appropriate stylistically in nearly all instances. She can use a healthy belt and a healthy mix of head and chest voices like one hears from cabaret and musical theater singers. In fact, the only misstep vocally I hear is when she reverts to amore “legit” sound for "La vie en rose", the last song in an otherwise effective Edith Piaf medley. I’m also happy to report one can understand every word she sings—a major accomplishment.

The actual songs? An interesting selection of standards, performed very well by Pat and amazing music director Craig Terry. One of my favorites was the Edit Piaf medley I mention, which included "Milord", "Padam", and "La vie en rose." As an experienced and well-educated opera singer, of course Pat has excellent French, and she performed the songs with a gusto and an understanding of the texts one would expect from an artist of her stature. She imitated just the right amount of Piaf’s vocal mannerisms and cabaret-style French—any more would have been excessive, and any less would have left one wondering what in the world she was doing.

Another favorite was “Here’s That Rainy Day”, which Pat referred to as her shower song. I also quite liked the way Pat contrasted “The Man Who Got Away” with the humorous song “To Keep My Love Alive”, which tells of men who would have been lucky to get away. In her introduction to a set of songs that told a bit of a story, Pat talked about how she always sings about women unhappy in love—throwing themselves off parapets, dying of consumption, running themselves through with swords, and so on. In these songs the effect was a bit more subtle—no quick relief coming from a desperate act. In “You’ve Changed”, the singer wonders why things are not the same as they once were. In “Guess Who I Saw Today”, she sings of having seen her man on a date with another woman, and in “Where Do You Start?” she sings of putting together a newly single life. In “So In Love” she sings of remaining in love after separating. Quite an effective set. 

It was obvious Pat had spent a lot of time living with the lyrics of all these songs, as she portrayed a deep intimacy and urgent emotion in them all.

I won’t describe every song, but I will say this is a recording I enjoyed very much, and I highly recommend it.

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