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Recordings

Call Me Flott
13 Dec 2011

Call Her Flott — Felicity Lott sings in English

Soprano Felicity Lott has concentrated her career in her UK homeland and in Europe, although she certainly has had her share of US appearances.

Call Me Flott

Dame Felicity Lott, soprano; Graham Johnson, piano.

Champs Hill Records CHRCD003 [CD]

$17.99  Click to buy

The operas of Richard Strauss provided her the opportunity often in her career to showcase her stylish and intelligent approach to larger soprano roles. However, in recent years she has found renewed acclaim as the comic lead in Offenbach operettas, such as La Belle Hélène and Le Grand Ducheese de Gerolstein. Her wit and idiomatic French carry the day in these roles, even though the voice at this point in her career has lost some of the plushness that had served her so well in Strauss and Mozart.

Perhaps it is the success she has enjoyed in these comic roles that prompted her to release this CD of lighter material and then top off the package with the casual greeting of Call Me Flott as the title. With the excellent accompaniment of Graham Johnson at the piano, Ms. Lott starts her recital of songs in English with one of the many settings of “It was a lover and his lass,” this one by Geoffrey Bush. Moving onto a piece each by two 20th century masters — Poulenc and Britten — the recital seems at first to be a rather more formal affair than it will later prove to be, and Ms. Lott is on her best recitalist form — enunciating with precision and scaling down her instrument to a more intimate level. Some high notes develop a slight tremor as a result. As the soprano moves onto rarities such as songs in English set by Gounod and Saint-Saens, listeners may begin to feel that calling the soprano “Ms. Lott” is more appropriate than the friendly suggestion of the CD title.

It’s with Noel Coward’s “If Love Were All” than Ms. Lott really seems to relax into “Flott” mode. A smile appears in the voice, and though she takes no jazz-influenced rhythmic or melodic liberties, there is a naturalness to her delivery that feels fresh and contemporary. Some of the “popular” numbers, however, are somewhat dated. Maybe a bolder interpreter would have changed Jerome Kern’s “You can’t make love by wireless” to “You can’t make love by cell phone.” Incidentally, it is only be referencing Mr. Johnson’s expert and detailed booklet notes that one can find the complete names of the composers and the poet or lyricist for the numbers. The track listing only gives composers’ surnames.

Highlights include a tender rendition of Irving Berlin’s “What’ll I do” and several deliciously old-fashioned numbers, such as “The Boy in the Gallery” and “Come on Algernon.” It actually takes a top artist to imbue these simple numbers with a sense of fun without overdoing a knowing wink at the anachronism. For your reviewer, the only odd choice is the straight-faced approach to Cole Porter’s “Miss Otis Regrets,” the droll comic piece about a society matron who must decline a lunch invitation after being arrested for shooting her cheating lover. Perhaps Flott thought it would hurt the piece to camp it up, but this is not Porter’s finest melody, and the number gets a bit dull. Nonetheless, the recital feels quite different than it did at its start by the 27th number (Coward’s “The Party’s Over”). Everyone should be addressing her as Flott by then.

Chris Mullins

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