Opera's hottest new star with a fantastic debut.
Charlotte Gardner 2007
This may be Kate Royal’s first solo disc, but she has been making rather large waves in the classical music world for a while now. As the 2004 winner of both the Kathleen Ferrier and John Christie awards, with critically acclaimed Glyndebourne and Royal Opera House performances, and appearances on Paul McCartney’s Ecce Cor Meum recording and Ian Bostridge’s latest disc of Handel arias and duets, one would expect her to have recorded a pretty special recital. And she has.
Royal is accompanied by Edward Gardner and the Academy of St Martin in the Fields, and her recital takes the listener from French cantata to English folk song by way of Strauss. It includes old favourites such as Canteloube’s Chants d’Auvergne alongside lesser-known works such as Debussy’s “Air de Lia” from L’Enfant Prodigue. Although there is no particular theme, Royal plainly has an affinity with music of and inspired by Spain. It pervades much of the recital, from Ravel’s “Vocalise en forme de habanera” to Rodrigo’s gorgeous “Cuatro madrigals amatorios”.
Royal’s voice is just sublime; rich, warm and pure, it is able to be both lightly playful in Canteloube’s “Malurous qu’o uno fenno”, and languorously dreamy in Strauss’s “Wiegenlied”. I could listen to it all day. What really sets her apart, though, is her ability to get under the skin of a song’s lyrics to take on their emotions. She doesn’t just sing a song; she becomes it. Take Delibes’ party piece, “Les Filles de Cadix”. This puts in an appearance almost too regularly on recital discs and, whilst it may be fun, unless acted convincingly it can fall flat as a pancake. There is no danger of that here though. Royal’s interpretation is full of panache and fiery coquettishness. Likewise, she takes on all the wistfulness, then hope, of the jilted maid in “The Sprig of Thyme”, and the hollow loneliness of Rodrigo’s beautiful madrigal, “¿Con qué la lavaré?” Kate Royal is much more than just a beautiful voice. This is music and singing to savour.