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PopMatters Music Short Takes
our brief reviews of new releases
23 September 2003
Opera Babes, Beyond Imagination (Sony Classical)
This mezzo-soprano/ soprano duo began as street buskers duetting on operatic material and the like near London's Royal Opera House, with whose variously discerning queues they were a hit. Their CD would have been better for more things like the song based on a theme from Grieg's piano concerto, but this is umpteen classic(al) vocal chestnuts adapted and tarted up (most better than the grand march from Aida which ends this CD on its nadir). Why, with hundreds of alternatives at hand, rehash as "Granny-pop" material which sounds hackneyed unless played seriously straight? Well, apparently it sells. It's inoffensive, easy, but when the CD plays little listening is required or rewarded. Surely the duo never sounded like this when busking, voices insufficiently bright or clear, as if subdued by a general notion of packaging over style. This is not the most musical of marketing exercises, with two pretty faces on the front, musically-spiritually on a par with the 2002 London Proms concert on "Music-Theatre", which revelled in Richard Rodgers but in respect of Richard Wagner (whose work shared the programme) had Bryn Terfel pasteurisedly singing the notes and words of Wotan's farewell with about as little character or meaning as the mere notes and words allow. The same sort of treatment that operatic items get here was poured over blues and R&B more years ago than the Babes could remember. Quite possibly, the Opera Babes sound great in concert, but they've been done no musical favours by Sony Classical, touting not the wide appeal of good tunes but the planned potential of programmed product. Judged as pap, it's on the soft side too.
Robert R. Calder
.: posted by Editor 12:49 PM