Nicole Car (soprano)
Australian Opera and Ballet Orchestra/Andrea Molino
rec. 1-4, 7, 8 September 2015, Eugene Goossens Hall of the Australian
Broadcasting Corporation’s Ultimo Centre, Sydney
Booklet notes in English, sung texts in original language and English
ABC CLASSICS 481 2371 [74:29]
I must confess I hadn’t heard of Nicole Car until quite recently, despite her international success. You see, I’m Australian also, and this is the land of the cultural cringe, where anybody else’s is better, and true acclaim can only be won abroad. Add to that a national psyche which values and trumpets sporting success over anything else and, well, you have my excuse.
I’d still be none the wiser if it weren’t for a TV promotion of this album by its producer, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC). My wife, who has become quite passionate about opera, elbowed me (gently) when the commercial first appeared, drawn to the creamy tones issuing forth. That preceded the ad’s voice-over, following which Car’s voice rose with a quite startling vibrato, rather neutralising the moment. Drawn, however, to the potential of what I heard, I was very pleased when the opportunity arose to review her recital.
First, a little background. Nicole Car, born 1985, excelled as a stage performer at her Melbourne high school. By her own account, at 17 she had developed a natural vibrato in her voice and was encouraged to “consider classical music”. Her first experience of opera, seeing the wonderful and greatly missed Deborah Riedel in Tosca, was transformative. Formal study followed, and in 2007 she was awarded the title ‘Symphony Australia Young Vocalist’. She debuted as Donna Anna at the Victorian Opera in 2009, followed by several leading roles with Opera Australia. In 2013 she won the Neue Stimmen competition in Germany, and made her debut at ROH, Covent Garden, in 2015 as Micaëla in Carmen.
Car’s selections for this album are typical of its kind – many perennial favourites mixed with a few less common items, the title taken from Smetana’s opera Hubička. As her maiden, rite-of-passage recital, though, she is begging comparison with the great divas, past and present, many of whom were further into their fame before taking this step.
We should be thankful that she did. Nicole Car not only has an outstandingly beautiful and versatile voice, but a keen musical intelligence to go with it; the difference between merely singing an aria and being completely inside it. Car commands the languages, emotions and nuances of her many cameos with consummate style. The vibrato is certainly there - it’s quite fast and something to be managed as she progresses. Not surprisingly, her Slavic selections are a cut above, the Dvořák Song to the Moon authentic and meltingly lovely. Also proving her western European credentials, Car opens and closes her recital in France, with an exquisite Gounod Jewel Song, and Dis-moi que je suis belle from Massenet’s Thaďs, her ringing finale leaving one speechless.
Car is well supported by the Australian Opera and Ballet Orchestra under Andrea Molino, who also provide three interludes during the programme. The sound from the ABC’s Ultimo Centre in Sydney is nicely balanced and pleasingly full-bodied. Online clips of the recording show Car facing Molino with the orchestra surrounding her, accounting for its naturally integrated feel.
Now that I’m fully chastened for my ignorance of a wonderfully talented compatriot, I will follow Nicole Car’s career with avid interest. It’s too easy at this stage to dig into the superlatives, only to regret it later when none are left for something even better. For the moment I’ll rest content that I’ve kept the best in reserve.
Charles GOUNOD (1818-1893) Ah, je ris de me voir si belle (Jewel Song) (Faust) [4:47]
Giuseppe VERDI (1813-1901) Tacea la notte placida (Il trovatore ) [5:04]
Giacomo PUCCINI (1858-1924) Mi chiamano Mimě (La bohčme) [4:51]
Nikolai RIMSKY-KORSAKOV (1844-1908) Tsveti moi! (Servilia) [4:20]
Giuseppe VERDI Come in quest’ora bruna (Simon Boccanegra) [4:29]
Pyotr Il’yich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893)
Eugene Onegin - Introduction, Act I [2:27]
Puskai pogibnu ya (Tatyana’s Letter Scene) [12:38]
Francesco CILEA (1866-1950)
Adriana Lecouvreur - Intermezzo, Act II [2:43]
Io son l’umile ancella [3:02]
Georges BIZET (1838-1875) Je dis que rien ne m’épouvante (Carmen) [5:26]
Bedřich SMETANA (1824-1884)
Hubička - Overture [5:49]
Hajej, můj andílku (Vendulka’s Lullaby) [4:01]
Antonín DVOŘÁK (1841-1904) Měsíčku na nebi hlubokém (Song to the Moon) (Rusalka) [6:30]
Jules MASSENET (1842-1912) Dis-moi que je suis belle (Thaďs) [7:07]