PUMEZA / VOICE OF HOPE 4786316

Almost four years ago, I was bowled over by the voice of the South African soprano Pumeza Matshikiza as the female lead in Wexford Festival's production of Smetana's ["The Kiss"] . . . Matshikiza sang ["Vendulka's Lullaby"] so gorgeously . . . [on "Voice of Hope" CD]: [a] distinctive beauty of a special voice. In the African songs, unsurprisingly, she's in her element: she could probably choose between an opera and a crossover career . . . [on "Dido and Aeneas" at the Bristol Proms]: Her Dido looked magnificent, a shimmering, silver-clad African queen, and her voice shimmered, too . . . [nice] to hear a fruity, sensual soprano in this role . . .

With a game-changing album of arias and traditional South African songs, soprano Pumeza Matshikiza is taking opera in a new direction . . .

. . . ["O mio babbino caro" from "Gianni Schicchi" and "Signore, ascolta!" from "Turandot"] reveal a substantial lyric voice, with a lovely warm tone and quite a strong vibrato. She has a finely open sound, and brings sensitive shaping to the music . . . "Signore, ascolta!" is vibrant with an even, well filled line . . . "Pata Pata" is nicely catchy, capturing the songs interesting rhythmic feel with some great percussion in the accompaniment . . . ["Vedrai, carino" from Mozart's "Don Giovanni"] is poised with a fine feel for the phrasing. Her diction is excellent . . . Mimi's "Donde lieta usci" from Act three of Puccini's "La Boheme" is near ideal, with a lovely rich line combined with singing of fluidity and flexibility, plus a fabulous climax . . . ["Umzi Watsha"]: the song is quite strongly characterful, and Pumeza makes it rather intriguingly effective . . . ["Lakutshon Ilanga"] receives a lush orchestration from Farrington and beautifully controlled and affecting vocals from Pumeza. This is a fascinating disc, with Pumeza showing herself adept at performing both the operatic arias and the Miriam Makeba songs. She has a voice of great beauty which, on this showing, is combined with great sensibility. Certainly a talent to watch.

Each number advertises an ample and well controlled lyric voice, especially appealing in her three Puccini arias and the lilting Swahili song "Malaika".

Her voice is well-schooled, with a natural amplitude that fits her for large opera houses. She has an especially well-developed middle range that makes her seem best suited to be a mezzo-soprano . . . as a visiting card, announcing a major new talent, this will do fine.

. . . this is a cunningly programmed crossover package . . . the arrangements are much more idiomatic than is usually the case.

Listening to songs of other countries is always revealing -- the themes, the melodies and the accompaniment . . . what a refreshing and beautiful debut disc she offers us . . .

There are two distinct facets to Pumeza Matshikiza's vocal personality on this CD: the singer who is now a 'fully fledged soprano' . . . and the singer of popular songs associated with the much-loved Miriam Makeba . . . The colours in the haunting, spare accompaniment [of "Umzi Watsha"] are conveyed with expert precision by the versatile Aurora Orchestra conducted by Iain Farrington, who should also be congratulated for his arrangements. His reimagining of the original backing tracks to the Makeba songs are immediately appealing and skilfully highlight the individuality of each number. The string chart in "Pata, Pata" is of particular note; the clarinet line adding individuality to the lolloping rhythm of "Holilili". "Malaika" and "Lakutshon' ilanga" have the appeal of the Canteloube Songs of the Auvergne, with birdsong adding an extra dimension . . . Pumeza's Mimi is lovingly sung, her line to Rodolfo about keeping her pink bonnet as a souvenir of their love a touching moment in her interpretation. Liù's aria is well sustained, with nice portamento . . . There's no mistaking the great care with which these performances have been prepared, and the technique is all there.

. . . with her luscious lyric voice and her superb presence and acting she will certainly be a star . . . Pumeza writes charming introductions to each song and aria, and the texts are given in full. The general impression is delightful . . . With her remarkable combination of qualities she should be appearing in major roles in the world's great opera houses.

. . . [Mashikiza präsentiert] auf ihrem Debüt-Album einen mehr als überraschenden und erfrischenden Mix aus Oper, Weltmusik und klassisch arrangierten Miriam Makeba-Titeln. Mit fließenden Übergängen zwischen den Repertoires. Das ist ungemein eingängig: akute Ohrwurm-Gefahr! . . . ein hochinteressantes Album . . . [Puccini, Mozart]: Souverän gestaltet und mit herrlicher Stimme vorgetragen . . . Durch die enorme Klang-Amplitude zwischen dunklem Samt und gleißend heller Seide klingen sie außerdem angenehm ungewohnt. Zu voller Form läuft Pumeza dann auf, wenn sie im traditionellen Click-Song "Qongqothwane" verschiedene Klick-, Kieks-, Kitzel- und Schnalzlaute der Bantu-Sprachen einbaut . . . Großartig das Folk-Wiegenlied "Thula Baba" und der Makeba-Klassiker "The Naughty Little Flea". Hier singt Pumeza mit großer Stimme, ohne dass dies als fremd zu empfinden wäre. Selbst als Holzweg eines Opernsängerinnen-Grenzganges ist dies ein überaus sympathisches, merkwürdiges und höchst genießbares Album geworden. "Voice Of Hope" zeigt, dass wir beim klassikaffinen Repertoire Afrikas noch unbeleckte Ohren haben . . . Vielleicht die Überraschung des Jahres!

Eine ehemalige Teilnehmerin von Dame Kiris Meisterkursen legt nun ihre erste spektakuläre CD vor: Pumeza Matshikiza . . . Vergangenheit trifft gewissermaßen auf Gegenwart und Zukunft, vereint mit einem leicht herben, feminine Stimmtimbre von hohem Wiedererkennungswert.

Die junge Sängerin verfügt über attraktives, individuelles, wie aus Kupfer getriebenes Timbre.

Pumeza Matshikiza kann mit Fug und Recht "Voice of Hope" genannt werden . . . [Matshikiza] legt ein existenziell wuchtiges Album vor, eine Sammlung feuriger, orchesterarrangierter Lieder ihrer Heimat und lyrischer Mozart- und Puccini-Arien . . . Mit ihrem geheimnisdunkel glühenden, höhensicheren Sopran bekennt sich die Sängerin . . . offenherzig zu den Songs von Miriam Makeba . . . Das raffiniert verspielte "The Naughty Little Flea" und das aufsässige "Pata Pata" oder das ausgelassene "Baxabene Oxam" legen davon Zeugnis ab. Eingestreut dazwischen das "Vedrai, carino" einer sehr fraulichen Mozart-Zerlina, die strahlende Puccini-Lauretta mit "O mio babbino caro", am Ende die unheilvolle Klage "Signore, ascolta" der stolzen Liu aus "Turandot". Pumeza aus den Townships Südafrikas berührt uns mit ihrer Seelenkunst.