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Nicole Cabell
28 Feb 2007

Nicole Cabell, St John’s Smith Square, London

The Rosenblatt Recital Series, which presents concerts around London from artists ranging from the well-known to the brand-new, last week showcased Nicole Cabell, the glamorous 29-year-old winner of the 2005 Cardiff Singer of the World competition.

Nicole Cabell – BBC Wales/Rosenblatt Recital Series, St John’s Smith Square, February 21st 2007

 

Accompanied by pianist Simon Lepper, the American soprano tackled an impressive variety of repertoire. Her greatest strengths, it seems, lie in poetry and contemplative song. Three Liszt songs – ‘Es muss ein Wunderbares sein’, ‘Die Lorelei’ and ‘Enfant, si j’étais roi’ – held the audience spellbound as the voice seemed to become one with the accompaniment and indeed the piece. Later in the concert, Ben Moore’s Keats setting ‘Darkling I listen’ created a similar magic.

Yet in two Puccini favourites – ‘Quando me’n vo’’ (one of Cabell’s calling cards) and ‘Chi il bel sogno di Doretta’ — her tone was monochrome and there was little sense of character portrayal.

‘Padre, germani, addio’ from Idomeneo was imbued with urgency, while Bolcom’s ‘Amor’, was delivered with mischievous sparkle and wit. However in Gounod’s ‘Je veux vivre’ and (as an encore) Puccini’s ‘O mio babbino caro’, Cabell failed to set the hall alight, despite an unfailing sense of style and poise; her elegant, sophisticated presence just did not sit well with teenaged heroines, nor with the child subject of three songs from Bernstein’s ‘I hate music’.

In other offerings from American music theatre, Cabell proved herself as an entertainer; she struck just the right balance between schmaltz and musicality, a rare gift when presenting a mixed recital programme to a largely classical audience.

This was by no means a flawless recital, and perhaps the variety of repertoire was simply too great. Cabell’s Liszt interpretations alone proved her to be a young artist of exceptional promise; perhaps next time she should focus on such a strength and present it to the best of her ability.

Ruth Elleson

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