La Scena Musicale

Thursday, 10 July 2014

As Long As There Are Songs / Stephanie Blythe (CD Review)

As Long As There Are Songs

Stephanie Blythe
Craig Terry, piano
INNOVA 875  (55min 32sec)

There have been plenty of opera divas over the years trying their hand at pop. Just because these ladies are wonderful in opera doesn’t always mean success as the two genres pose totally different technical and stylistic demands.  Singing intimate pop songs in an operatic fortissimo, with excessive vibrato, rigid rhythm and a general lack of “swing” are surefire reasons for unidiomatic results.  The best ones, Eileen Farrell of the past comes immediately to mind, sing naturally, without any hint of operatic artifice.  Based on this disc of 14 popular American songs, mezzo-soprano Stephanie Blythe qualifies as a fine pop singer. From Irving Berlin to Harold Arlen to George Gershwin, Blythe sings “naturally” with clear diction, capturing the spirit of each song. Personally I prefer the sad songs, which she sings in an exquisite half voice, like ‘Always’ and “When You Wish Upon a Star.’ For the upbeat songs, she brings her chest voice to the very top – totally verboten in opera – and its creates a certain "Ethel Merman forcefulness" to these numbers. The disc uses Meyer Sound’s new “Constellation Acoustic Technology” creating a very natural ambiance, as if the listener is in the room with the singer. Given this realistic acoustic, one wish there were an audience complete with applause. As it stands, it's just odd that there's dead silence after the end of a song. Here is a video clip where Blythe talks about the recording process -   Recommended for fans of Blythe and for opera fans who want to venture into old standards.  JOSEPH SO 

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