Recordings > Recital

Patricia Racette and Craig Terry: "Diva on Detour"

spacer GPR Records GPR 10013

RacetteCD

Many of us cringe when we hear that a classical singer has done a crossover recording. The casualty list is endless, as there are few who can loosen up enough, forget their classical training and scale their voices down to an intimate level. The handful who have succeeded — among them Eileen Farrell, Dawn Upshaw, Sylvia McNair and Elly Ameling — are the exceptions that prove the rule.

It's nice to be able to add the name of Patricia Racette to that small number. There's no surprise that one of the opera stage's finest singing actresses delivers well-honed emotional interpretations of these pop songs and standards. But what's particularly satisfying is the fact that she does not fall into the trap of sounding like an opera singer. No apologies are necessary here; her chesty pop vocal style would be right at home in any cabaret. 

Ably supported by Craig Terry on piano, Racette recorded this disc in a studio, but with a live audience in attendance. Before her opera career, she used to jam with jazz musicians in garages and basements, so, as she remarks at one point between songs, the experience is "like coming home" to her. She starts off, as many cabaret artists do, with an uptempo medley — in this case "I Got Rhythm" and "Get Happy" — which merely serves as a kind of icebreaker. Soon enough, she's deep into a slow, introspective "Here's That Rainy Day" that develops into a fine jazzy dialogue between her voice and Terry's responsive piano accompaniment. "Not a Care in the World" doesn't really display the required lightness of spirit; this type of jaunty material is not where Racette is most at home. But the cry-in-your-beer classic "Angel Eyes" mines her inherent dramatic abilities, and a trio of Piaf favorites — "Milord," "Padam" and "La Vie en Rose" — are a high point, melding idiomatic French with Racette's trademark emotional intensity. Another Piaf hit, "Mon Dieu," sung toward the end of the disc, is equally strong. 

Three cabaret standards — "You've Changed," "Guess Who I Saw Today" and "Where Do You Start?" — form the core of the disc's final third, and in Racette's hands they make an especially poignant sequence tracing the end of a relationship. Followed by a feverishly emotional take on Cole Porter's "So In Love," this amounts to Racette's cabaret version of a four-act opera. She puts an unforgettable personal stamp on it, as she does on this entire new turn in her career. spacer 

ERIC MYERS

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Current Issue: October 2014 — VOL. 79, NO. 4