Royal Philharmonic Orchestra / Nadine Sierra / Robert Spano

There's a Place for Us

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The young American soprano Nadine Sierra, winner of top prizes like the Beverly Sills Artists Award, has won wide attention for her singing in bel canto roles. For her debut album, however, she has chosen not Italian repertory but accessible contemporary material, most of it in English. It might seem an odd fit with her stated goal: "Opera belongs to everybody, no matter what age, no matter what race, no matter what kind of money you make or don't make. It will speak to you because it is a reflection of humanity." Much of the material on the album is not opera at all, but musical theater or orchestral songs. However, it emerges that there's a method behind Sierra's selections: almost without exception (the exception is No Word from Tom, from Stravinsky's The Rake's Progress, which is placed at the end, seems to come out of nowhere, and just sounds bizarre), the music fits Sierra's voice. She's got a big, distinctive sound, with a muscular high end in which vibrato ripples powerfully and quickly. Once you hear it, you don't forget it, and this is the source of the excitement surrounding this young singer. Sample one of the pieces by Villa-Lobos, which almost seem tailor-made for Sierra. Composer Ricky Ian Gordon's straightforward poetry settings also favor Sierra's voice. What she doesn't have at the moment is a great deal of range: Bernstein's calculatedly sentimental Take Care of This House and jocular Glitter and Be Gay come out sounding rather similar, and the farther she gets from her high sweet spot the less confident she sounds. It's certainly enough to whet the appetite for the voice's future development, however. Sierra is ably backed by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and conductor Robert Spano, who deserve more than the very small print they get in Deutsche Grammophon's album graphics.

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
1 02:53
2 06:56
3 05:57
Songfest
4 03:45
Floresta Do Amazonas
5 04:21
6 02:54
7 06:31
8 05:01
Floresta Do Amazonas
9 03:47
The Cows of Apollo
10 06:16
11 03:21
12 06:18
The Rake's Progress
13 08:38
blue highlight denotes track pick