Emily D’Angelo: enargeia (DG)
Most debut vocal albums consist of familiar arias sung in much the same way as all the big divas and stuffed with agent-approved hype. Not this one.
I have never heard any of the songs on this Canadian mezzo’s first outing and know no more about her except that I tipped her for stardom six years ago and now discover that my first impression was a woeful underestimate of her tremendous promise. O, Canada!
The songs first. They are all by women — Missy Mazzoli, Sarah Kirkland Snider and Hildur Guðnadóttir, with two modern arrangements of medieval devotions by the blessed Hildegard of Bingen. Every song is an ear-opener. Hildur’s warm-up track wins my Earworm of the Year, can’t get enough of it, and Snider’s Dead Friends will stop you your tracks for several minutes after it stops playing. The songs are accompanied by Berlin freelance musicians in the hallowed Jesus-Christus Kirche where even Karajan could not have asked for better sound. It’s a treat for the senses and a tonic for tired tastes.
D’Angelo’s voice is a thing of wonder. Around the middle of mezzo, she could be mistaken for Lorraine Hunt Lieberson or Jennifer Larmore, but she goes way beyond expectations, offering Celtic keening in one track and Joan Baez realism in another. Her diction is clear as a bell, and the expression she puts into the poetry is perfectly calibrated. There is not a dud song on this record, and I can’t remember ever saying that about a debut album.
Emily D’Angelo will go far, but she’ll have a lot to do to beat this original, immaculate conception. The title is Greek for guiding spirit. This artist knows where she is going.
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