PUMEZA / VOICE OF HOPE 4787605

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 . . .

. . . [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!