We do this so you don’t have to. The flow of Christmas albums has slimmed in recent years but there is still a belief in the music industry that nothing sells at Christmas like an opera singer. Is that still true?
I sampled Bryne Terfel’s DG Santa sock which includes duets with Katherine Jenkins and Emma Thompson. Need I say more? I dipped into Renée Fleming’s Broadway disc on Decca and quickly dipped out again. I attended with sadness to the great John Tomlinson’s Schubert Swansong on Signum. And then I heard Nadine Sierra’s debut album and all was light and hope.
A protégée of Marilyn Horne’s, the Florida-born soprano ranges here over a pick’n’mix tub of Bernstein, Villa-Lobos, Ricky Ian Gordon and others. She has spot-on pitch with room to spare at the top and her articulation in both English and Portuguese is unfashionably immaculate. She gets Bernstein. ‘Somewhere’ from West Side Story is sweet pleasure and if Glitter and Be Gay lacks that last edge of wit, the sound she produces is lustrous.
The Villa-Lobos selection steams with midday tropicality. A perfectly-formed aria by Osvaldo Goliov is a reminder of a major dropout from the contemporary music scene. I’m not sure that a Rake’s Progress aria is the best closer for a soprano’s debut album but the intelligence on display here is vivid and unpredictable, leaving the impression that Ms Sierra is a formidable recital singer who can transcend an orchestra (the RPO here) at will. I’m almost tempted to say she’ll be wasted on opera.