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.
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
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.