Reviews of a trio of excellent albums: Marie Oppert – Enchantée, Kim David Smith Live at Joe’s Pub and Siobhan Dillon – One Voice, all recommended
I do love me a soprano and discovering a new one feels like as good a way to spend lockdown as any. Marie Oppert is a French singer and actress whose debut, at age 17, came in a major concert version of a little-known show called Les Parapluies de Cherbourg… From those Michel Legrand-sanctioned days, she has established a notable career and now releases her first solo album Enchantée. Back by the luscious sound of the Orchestre National de Lille and conductor Nicholas Skilbeck, this collection sees Oppert explore a bilingual songbook that stretches from the boulevards of Paris to Broadway.
The result is something rather glorious. The sumptuous treatment of the likes of ‘The Light in the Piazza’ and ‘I Could Have Danced All Night’ are near ecstatic, ‘Children Will Listen’ in French brings a new dynamism to a familiar piece, and characterful duets with Melissa Orrico and Natalie Dessay, whom she charmingly terms her “two Franco-American ‘fairy godmothers”, both impress. The irrepressible energy of 1938 track ‘Y’a d’la joie’ is an absolute standout and an interpretation of Billy Elliott’s ‘Electricity’ has no right to be as effective as it is here. Sod’s law though, Oppert is playing in London next month but bloody Covid restrictions means I can only go by buying a table for two.
I also love me some darkly queer cabaret and Kim David Smith Live at Joe’s Pub certainly fits the bill. Australian-born and NYC-based, the construction of Smith’s setlist here is a masterclass in weaving together old and new, imbuing a cohesive Weimar spirit throughout the whole repertoire whether it is Kurt Weill or Kylie Minogue. Opening with a vivid take on Weill’s ‘Pirate Jenny’, Smith navigates the hour or so of the collection with consummate ease and an indecent amount of glee. A German translation of ‘I Should Be So Lucky’ intertwines beautifully with Marlene Dietrich’s ‘Illusions’, a jagged reinterpretation of ‘You Just Keep Me Hangin’ On’ is sheer thrilling drama, and there’s such dynamic elegance in ‘Jonny, wenn du Geburtstag hast?’ with its perfectly fitting coda from ‘Erotica’. Another one to look out for when live events kick in again properly.
And last but by no means least. Produced by the reliably excellent Steve Anderson, Siobhan Dillon’s album One Voice feels like something special from the get-go. Four years in the making and shaped by her experience with breast cancer, this is a spine-tingling collection of songs, many of them familiar but all of them reborn through the beauty of Dillon’s voice. The record has a hushed, even haunting quality but what you might mistake for fragility is a deliberate delicacy. Just take Kelly Clarkson’s ‘Already Gone’, stripped of all its bombast the tenderness of its kiss-off becomes something heartbreakingly new. So too does the eeriness of Tears for Fears’ ‘Mad World’ shine through in this treatment – a stunning album.