Image © E-Magine Entertainment 2002
(10 August 2002) Producer and writer Lord Vanger, the creative impetus behind
2000's O: Operatica, Vol. 1 has revisited the opera halls and dance halls
with a new album entitled Shine. While O featured the vocals of
celebrated siren soprano, Maureen O'Flynn, Shine teams Vanger with divas
Ying Huang, Inva Mula, Persian vocalists Shakila and Jihae, and tenor vocalist
John Osborn. The stellar Ms. O'Flynn also (gratefully) makes a reappearance on
the title track, "Shine." This review features brief profiles of Lord Vanger
and several of the contributing vocalists where biographical information was
Lord Vanger: Lord Vanger was born and raised in the UK. After
spending time in France and Switzerland Vanger relocated to New York where
he earned a B.A. in English from Columbia University. In 1997, Vanger
formed a highly successful commercial music and design company called
B5 Atomic. Vanger has since produced commercial music for Dodge,
Hyundai and Tropicana. Vanger has also worked in the film industry
as a music supervisor.
Maureen O'Flynn: Noted as an "Artist to Watch" by Musical
America Ms. O'Flynn is the recipient of the Opera Index First Prize and a
grant from the Richard Tucker Music Foundation. The Dallas Opera also
awared Maureen O’Flynn the Callas Award for Outstanding New Artist of the
Year. Ms. O’Flynn has also performed at the Metropolitan Opera, Lyric
Opera of Chicago, Houston Grand Opera, Opera Company of Philadelphia, La
Scala, La Fenice, Arena di Verona, Bologna’s Teatro Comunale, the Satander
Festival, Covent Garden, New Israeli Opera and the Vienna Staatsoper.
Ying Huang: China's Ying Huang has performed with numerous
leading opera companies throughout the world. As a soprana, she was chosen
from over 200 candidates to portray the title role in Frédéric Mitterrand's
1995 film version of Puccini's Madame Butterfly. Deemed one of opera's
most skilled young sopranos, Ying Huang has performed Sonnets to Orpheus,
a six-movement song cycle for soprano and chamber ensemble based upon
the 1923 poems of Maria Rilke and composed by Richard Danielpour.
Inva Mula: Albanian soprano Inva Mula-Tchako is probably best
known to the world for her brief, but memorable performance of a section
of Gaetano Donizetti's opera Lucia Di Lammermoor in the movie, The Fifth
Element, where she provided the singing voice of the Diva Plavalaguna.
Inva rocketed to fame after becoming a prizewinner in the George Enescu
Competition in Bucharest in September 1991. Since that time, Inva Mula-Tchako
has performed in the United States, Italy, France, Japan, Austria, Norway,
Spain, South Korea and Turkey. Her repertory includes Violetta in La
Traviata, Mimi in La Boheme, Gilda in Rigoletto, Rosina in
Il Barbiere di Siviglia and Leila in Les Pecheurs de Perles.
Shakila: Perisan singer Shakila was born in the city of Tehran
and began performing at a very young age with her family. Shakila came to
the attention of producers after performing on a national television show
at the age of nine. Thereafter, Shakila honed her talents by performing
in school contests and talent competitions. At the age of fifteen,
immediately before Iran's revolution, Shakila became a student of Ostad
Mahmood Karimi, familiarizing herself with Persian traditional repertoire
and "Radif." Moving to the United States at the age of eighteen, Shakila
studied classical music in pursuit of her dream to become a professional
singer. Shakila has since released eight albums and finds herself greatly
inspired by the poet Rumi.
Riding the rising wave of the new classical-crossover genre (which combines
classical and original pieces with modern electronica), Operatica's Shine
is a heavenly and hypnotic soundtrack that merges the beauty of opera with modern
instrumentation and rythms. Lord Vanger has expertly selected a variety of
vocalists for each track, lending color and individuality to the album. Pianist
Alan Steinberger and guitarist Aaron Jaffe also contribute to the lovely melodies
by providing organic textures to the music.
The adaptation of Grieg's "Solvejg's Song" from Peer Gynt is performed
to perfection by Ying Huang and highlighted by snappy percussion and swaths of
electronic pulses. Inva Mula's impassioned vocals perfectly accent the
Middle-Eastern tinged "Mon Amour (A Rose Under the Desert Sky) inspired from
music by Joaquin Rodrigo. Vanger deserves credit for infusing the
music with a mysterious and nomadic quality.
The lush title-track "Shine" is given amazing treatment by the incredibly
talented Maureen O'Flynn. Although the lyrics and melody are original (written
by Lord Vanger), Ms. O'Flynn performs the number with utmost skill. Her voice
(singing in English) soars, demonstrating that she can even imbue a pop song
with grace and beauty.
Shakila's voicings on "Kokab" are mesmerizing, flowing perfectly into the
Delerium-esque sounding music. "Standing on the Edge of the World" displays
touches of Ofra Haza and Dead Can Dance with its sultry and exotic vocals.
"Lost in Someone Else's Dream" is a delightful drum-and-bass piece
featuring ethereal Persian vocals sung by Jihae.
Serpentine ambience surrounds "Khodoya" with its rising arpeggiated synths
and slow-burning beats. "Je Crois Entendre Encore" from Bizet's The Pearl
Fishers is a gentle transition into peaceful lands. Tenor John Osborn's
sensitive and aching voice is soothing while retaining a sense of melancholy.
Ying Huang returns on the Debussy-inspired "Passepied." Again, dreamy
instrumentation creates an aura of serenity and bliss. Lord Vanger takes
lead vocals on The unusual "Under the Desert Sky" which sounds like an unique
melding of the Bee Gees, George Michael and Operatica. The final track is the
"Extended Grooveshaman Remix" of "Kokab" which would fit perfectly into an
after-hours club mix.
Read further reviews, listen to soundbites and order the album from amazon.com
In sum, Lord Vanger has done a fine job of joining spectacular vocalists with
fresh, contemporary music.--Justin Elswick