This disc was one of
the debut sensations of 2007. Kate Royal
is a singer who clearly considers her
voice and repertoire with great thoroughness
and with great intellect. She has paced
herself well, as none of the above tracks
strain her unduly. Edward Gardner, of
ENO fame, is a most sympathetic accompanist
- his Clemenza at the Coliseum
recently found him battling against
a below-par orchestra, though. John
Fraser and Arne Akselberg captured the
warmth of the Academy of St Martin beautifully.
For this disc, Royal
mixes a variety of composers, concentrating
on fairly easy-on-the-ear twentieth
century music. There are some rarities,
rubbing shoulders with much more famous
fare. In the early Debussy cantata L’Enfant
prodigue Royal successfully communicates
Lia's sadness. The Spanish heart of
the virtuoso Fille de Cadix aria
- great trills - prepares one for the
ever-so-well-known, seductive Canteloube
Baïlerò. Here competition
really sets in, with te Kanawa, Gens
and de los Angeles – at present on an
EMI GROC - fighting for your shelf-space.
Yet Royal holds her own in this august
company. La delaïssádo's
inherent sadness is notably caught.
Contrasting the wordless
Ravel with the vinegar of Stravinsky
works well in context; the three sections
of the Stravinsky are separately tracked.
Perhaps the brief Orff excerpt is dispensable.
I think the idea was for it to act as
an area of calm, but that is effectively
provided by Strauss's Wiegenlied.
Again, the Strauss songs bring Royal
into the ring with great singers, this
time with Jessye Norman and Schwarzkopf
at the top of the list. Wiegenlied
works wonderfully, as it emerges as
the perfect vehicle for Royal's legato.
I could not find a credit for the solo
violinist in Morgen! Royal's
light tone perfectly interacts with
It appears that the
Granados and Rodrigo items are the ones
that Royal is most at home with. The
famous Granados number is rapt, while
the much less-known Rodrigo will delight
many. This Rodrigo, surely, provides
real impetus for acquiring this disc.
The four songs work perfectly as a set,
with the more lonely first couple moving
towards the sprightlier third and the
overtly Spanish fourth. A Sprig of
Thyme acts as palate-cleanser.
This disc bodes well
for a singer of clear and huge talent.
Steve Vasta has
also listened to this CD
You can't fault Kate
Royal for unimaginative programming.
For her debut recorded recital, the
award-winning Guildhall graduate and
Glyndebourne regular eschews the familiar
byways of the literature. The Strauss
songs are as close as she comes to the
traditional German spring-and-young-love
Lieder. Instead she favors a
more intrepid, mostly more modern selection,
chosen, presumably, to showcase her
Royal certainly brings
the right basic equipment to the task.
Her soprano has a sufficiently narrow
focus to allow for pinpoint intonation
- an important asset, especially in
the more harmonically advanced repertoire
- yet it's also vibrant, with a hint
of richness that holds the listener's
attention. She spins out Orff's In
trutina easily and smoothly, and
understands where she fits into the
overall tapestry of Strauss's Morgen!
She draws wistful resignation from ¿Con
qué la lavaré?, the
first of Rodrigo's Cuatro madrigales
amatorios without spilling over
into depression, and evokes the easy,
carefree mood of the closing De los
álamos vengo, madre. And,
once past the arch, affected opening
lines, her performance of Anne Trulove's
scena is a knockout. The aria
is simple and direct, soaring through
the arching curves of the high phrases;
the anxious recitative resolves into
quiet confidence; the cabaletta is deft
Those opening lines,
though, hint at what's not quite right.
Royal tends to place her vowels "back,"
gaining a darker midrange at the expense
of intelligibility - a dubious trade-off
for a "singing actress," especially
in a folksong like The Sprig of Thyme.
The soft opening of Granados's Quejas
sounds bottled-up; Royal phrases tenderly,
but the words make no impact until the
music expands, when she lets the voice
out. Ravel's Vocalise en forme de
habañera and Strauss's Wiegenlied
are similarly neutral in tone, though
the singer has the right sort of long
line for the latter.
And that vowel setup,
of course, leads to other imbalances.
The upper voice sometimes shimmers -
note the lovely rise on "heureux"
in Lia's aria - and sometimes strains.
The melismas of Strauss's Ich wollt'
ein Strüasslein binden are
heavy and earnest; even so, Royal conveys
the song's curious juxtaposition of
vernal hope and disappointment. In lively
or delicate writing, injections of breath
compromise the legato. Still, it's a
pleasing and ambitious program, and
I'll take it with hopes for better things
to come from this intelligent artist
in the future.
Under Edward Gardner,
the St. Martin's forces provide firm,
full-bodied support - the opulent 'cellos
are seductive. But the woodwinds are
too loud too much of the time: dynamics
among the principals needed more fine-tuning
in the interplay of Canteloube's Baïléro.
Sound is basically fine, but the resonance
is overly aggressive in the more rousing
numbers. The booklet omits the last
verse of Delibes's Filles de Cadix,
and prints a completely different text
for The Sprig of Thyme from what
Royal actually sings.
Stephen Francis Vasta