> Filippa Giordano [KS]: Classical CD Reviews- Sept 2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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  Founder: Len Mullenger

Filippa Giordano, soprano
BELLINI, Casta Diva, SAINT-SAËNS, S’apre per te il mio cuor, PUCCINI, Vissi D’arte, Bizet, Habenera, BACH-GOUNOD, Ave Maria; VERDI, Addio del passato; MORRICONE/WATERS, Lost Boys Calling, SARTORI, You are the One, SARTORI, Dissonanze, SARTORI, Maria (by the sea); BELLINI, Casta diva (longer version).
Recorded in London with sundry studio musicians.
No recording dates specified. [DDD]
ERATO 3984-29694-2 [44’33"]


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Erato, in a miserable attempt at a crossover album have foisted onto the public forty-four excruciating minutes of Filippa Giordano, allegedly a soprano, crooning and swooning her way through some of the greatest literature in the operatic realm. The results are, in a word, a disaster. No … disaster is not a strong enough word.

Now let us go back in time and review a little history. In the fifties and sixties, drama-diva-extraordinaire Eileen Farrell began making pop records with the likes of Percy Faith and other great popular arrangers of that golden era of song. They were fabulous in that Ms. Farrell presented the songs in an honest, unaffected voice with a tremendous sense of flair and sincerity. Following suit, Domingo and Pavarotti, Jessye Norman and Kiri te Kanawa have all made the crossover attempt, and for the most part, failed.

Then in the 1970s, the matriarch of all pop female vocalists, Barbra Streisand, took the ball to the other court and made a record of classical music. Although many critics panned the effort, I feel that it succeeded because Ms. Streisand did not attempt to do anything other than give a straightforward reading of some great songs and arias. Nothing about her singing was stylized, and she took great pains to learn the languages and styles from no less a musician than Claus Ogermann. The result was a credible product, tailored to the singer’s fan-base to be sure, but credible nonetheless.

I must wonder, though, what on earth the boys at Erato were thinking when they let this disc out of the vaults. Perhaps they were trying to cash in on the success of Sarah Brightman, but I cannot imagine anyone with any taste being able to listen to this for more than a few minutes. Since I received my review copy, it has become my favorite party joke.

Ms. Giordano, who to her credit, renders the four genuine pop songs on this program rather well, has a strong, pleasant voice in the mold of Celine Dion. (As if we need another one of her!) Her attempts at opera, however, are absolutely unbearable. She scoops, she slides, she grunts and groans, she interpolates nasty-sounding notes, and she allows arranger Celso Valli to run amok with the brilliant orchestrations of master composers. This disc won’t even appeal to drag queens.

With hundreds of very fine singers out there trying to make a living, Erato is damaging the cause of opera by putting this on the market. I can honestly find no redeeming virtue in this release.


Kevin Sutton

Robert McKechnie was ever so slightly more kindly disposed last month:

All well produced music has merit. The listener who dismisses it has just failed to appreciate it: and that is the listener’s loss. Therefore we should always be open minded and receptive to sound that is different. Then if we do not like it we do not have to listen and can exercise our power of choice based on an informed opinion. Similar observations apply to the development of music.

I think that there are three basic approaches to opera on CD: an opera complete in conventional form; highlights from one or more operas in conventional form and finally opera melodies played or sung in any aspect of the broad spectrum of music conventional or otherwise.

Filippa Giordano takes seven such favourite melodies and sings to electronic arrangements. One is played twice first in a 4 minute session and then in a 5 minute session, called on the CD, the ‘extended version. In addition she sings three songs written for her and one other.

So far so good. In a web-site article Anne Evans writes that Filippa Giordano maintains that "opera singers…(have)…to be true to the score …whereas a pop singer has more freedom to interpret both the lyrics and the score". Again no one would quarrel with that.

However when Norma sounds like Dalila sounds like Tosca sounds like Carmen and so on there is no lyrical or score interpretation. It is just some thumping good melodies sung in a consistent style. Again fine but let us not pretend otherwise.

Gordiano has a youthful sexy voice which she ‘breaks’ from time to time into husky throaty broken reed fashion. Here indeed is Lauretta’s wheedling pleading with her father to marry Rinuccio. But there is no steely resolve to make you think that she will throw herself in the Arno if thwarted – more that this spoilt brat will have a temper tantrum and throw her toys into the Arno instead. As for thinking that she could deal with Scarpia or manage to be a high priestess, well just forget it.

What she has is a small head voice, accurate in mid-range, which is occasionally jet propelled to the back of the recording studio by electronic wizardry. If she stuck to her mid-tessitura it would be more comfortable, because on high the sound she produces is there or thereabouts but it is no more than that. And occasionally she lapses into very undistinguished high pitched humming and moaning.

When she puts behind her the ‘little girl sound’, which appears to be reserved for the opera tunes, and starts to belt out the music, then there is some power, oomph and dead sexy sound. At that point we are getting somewhere near the West End musical standard. Her problem is that the likes of Elaine Page can do it so much better.

So cut the pretentious drivel about opera performances. Accept that this is Filippa Giordano singing some great tunes from operas plus other songs. Then in her personal style you have a CD which will sell on her name and style for those who like something less than a cross between Elaine Page and Lee Marvin.

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