12/30/2002 5:00p PT
Matt Rowe - Reviewer
Opera Babes have a rags to riches Cinderella story to go along with this Sony Classical release. The press release says that just a little over a year ago, these highly talented women.. babes, if you will, were singing for coin in Covent Gardens in London to help pay for extra singing lessons. It's said that they were spotted by a talent scout who booked them to sing live before millions at the FA Cup Finals. After which, an intense bidding battle began with the winner being Sony Classical. So, the girls signed for a tidy six figures and are off to a fast start. But are they good? Are they really that good?
In a word, yes. Their vocals are rich, with incredible depth and full-bodied deliverance. It's hard to believe that they actually needed any more singing lessons. The vocals bring to mind the equally gorgeous and entrancing voice of Nicola Walker Smith, whose beautifully rendered renditions of classical poetry is stunning; another coup of Sony Classical in the capture of Geoff Smith.
The CD is comprised of 15 tracks, selections from many classical and contemporary works. There is the stylish "One Fine Day" from Madame Butterfly, sung here with extraordinary grace. Internationally successful, the song is accompanied by the Japanese drum ensemble, Kodo and, additionally, was chosen as the World Cup theme this year by an English TV network. Similarly, British Airways have chosen another of the tracks, "Lakme H2O", a stylish re-imagining of the Flower Duet from Lakme, for one of its commercials.
For me, the eerily ethereal, yet modernistic quality of "Beyond Imagination" from A Midsummer Night's Dream creeps into your heart and takes residence in your spirit, haunting your thought processes for days with it's dreamy piano fills and smooth orchestrations. Another pleasant surprise is the theme to Cinema Paradiso, "You Live On In My Heart", a flowing and softly delivered song given fresh beauty by Rebecca and Karen. This sweeping Morricone offering, reworked by the girls is nothing short of mainlined magnificence, an effect that is immediately rewarding.
Carmen's "Chanson Boheme" is gracious, while "Ode II Joy" from Beethoven's Ninth Symphony is stunning. This disc's 15 songs all bring their unique takes of some of the world's most beautiful pieces and wins it's way into your heart.
The set comes with a great booklet, as do most of Sony Classical releases, a hallmark of great interest to those of us who appreciate it. The booklet is adorned with photos of the MTV-like appearance of the two singers, both of whom are stunningly beautiful and engagingly talented. The pages are filled with lyrics, in some cases the original language is used as well as the translation. The booklet is chocked full of credits and references.
Opera has been woefully neglected by the power chorded youth of today. Sony hopes to change some of that with the release of this disc. Opera Babes are not only great looking women that have professional appeal, but they are also devoid of the stodgy ''old fogeys' music' appearance. They dress in current GenX/Y styles with mini skirts and tight jeans, far away from flowing dresses traditionally worn by classical female vocalists. With crossover status, the Opera Babes should have no problem being invited into your homes and into your stereos.
With a modification of the boundaries and a redefining of the way opera is presented, Sony envisions a broadening of musical acceptance by changing the landscape of old world opera. By bringing it under the influence of a new century, the revitalization of the genre could open newer horizons to chord worn ears and seeking minds. The Opera Babes is a conduit to that end.
If you want to be entertained with reworked classical pieces and soundtrack enhancements, this disc is the ticket. If you're a young individual with a remote interest in the classical genre, this disc is the perfect introduction. No matter what your status or your involvement, Opera Babes have it going on!
Copyright © 2002 Matthew Rowe. All rights reserved.
Released: January 14, 2003