Carmine Meo Cover 
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Image © Pendragon Records/EMI 1997
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Emma Shapplin

album reviews

Carmine Meo
written and produced by Jean-Patrick Capdevielle

Etterna
produced by Graeme Revell

© Russell W Elliot 1998-2002
Originally Written: 24 August 1998
Last Updated: 02 July 2002


Emma Shapplin's Carmine Meo (Pendragon Records (France) 823 838 2, 1997) has clearly set the high water mark for contemporary classical crossover albums since its initial release. Originally marketed strictly in the classical sections of European record shops, the album's release in wide range of territories literally took the world by storm. Subsequent releases of the album included various combinations of bonus tracks taken from or in addition to singles released by the artist.

The second contemporary classical crossover project from the album's producer and composer, Jean-Patrick Capdevielle, is entitled Atylantos (review). With stunning soprano vocal combinations by Chiara Zeffirelli, Elena Cojocaru and Jade Laura d'Angelis, it will certainly appeal to Emma Shapplin enthusiasts.

  Discovering Yourself
Discovering Yourself
Image © 1999
Pendragon Records

In 1999, Shapplin's record company released one of the current versions of Carmine Meo (Pendragon Records (France) CDLCD-1963) with "3 Movie & Radio Songs" that includes "Dolce Veneno," "Fera Ventura" and the popular hit "Discovering Yourself" sung in English. The "Discovering Yourself" single (Pendragon Records (France) CDLCD-1263, 1999) includes a remix of "Cuerpo Sin Alma" as well as the three tracks listed above. Order it from amazon.com here.

It is actually quite difficult to adequately reflect of the outstanding talent Emma Shapplin presents in her debut album, Carmine Meo. Although we enjoy female vocals in quite a few musical genres, we're just not well enough qualified in this one to write an informed review of Emma's material because it's far from what we typically listen to. We absolutely adore the album and are obviously not alone because the CD has done extremely well in both European and Canadian markets as supported by regular high ranking chart positions.

order now You can read further reviews, listen to soundbites and order the album from amazon.com here. Singles and versions with bonus tracks are also available online.

A short paragraph on a Dutch EMI web page at one time provided a glimpse into the artist's background. We've made a very vague attempt at translating some of the comments EMI make about the album:

Emma Shapplin is currently living and working from Paris. In her early years while other children were playing, she sang Mozart non-stop. By the age of nineteen, she was with a hard rock group, was a telephone receptionist and worked as a model. Her debut album has twelve songs, nine of them original melodies with rhythmic loops, drums and bass. Lyrics are either in Latin or fourteenth century Italian.

We'd like to hear her work with that hard rock group now—Emma would likely sound very similar to Tarja Turunen and Nightwish (review). Although there's no word in the online press about it, she may still be modelling. Photos in the well-produced accompanying booklet provide the evidence. The booklet also includes lyrics in the languages the songs are sung in, various writing and performing credits and other related information, in French.

The style of Carmine Meo is certainly different. Although it's not classic opera per se, the vocal style is highly operatic. And it's recorded to give Emma's voice prominence over anything else put down on the album to support it. The supporting instrumentals make the music far more accessible and perhaps give it a more "popular" feel. Supporting vocals by a choir on some tracks seem to underscore the operatic influence.

Red Planet
Red Planet OST
Image © 2000
Pangaea Records

 

The sound is clearly evident in her work on the Red Planet soundtrack as well. With a score composed by Graeme Revell and contributions by a range of artists including Peter Gabriel, Sting, Melissa Kaplan and The Police, Emma Shapplin is featured on three standout tracks. Enthusiasts were quick to note her stunning vocal work on "The Inferno," "The Fifth Heaven" and "Canto XXX" all written by Graeme Revell. The album is generally available from online sources. Order the Red Planet soundtrack from amazon.com here.

Emma's vocals are -- in a word -- terrific. She easily covers a vast range of octaves and her vocal power is nothing short of incredible. Although it's a travesty to try to make a comparison, the closest to her overall sound is Sarah Brightman in her most recent Timeless album. Although there are elements reminiscent of Sarah Brightman's Fly album in here, it's the similarity to Timeless that we're most comfortable making at this time. However, Emma Shapplin is a better and stronger vocalist than Sarah Brightman. The album style might also be compared to Annie Haslam and Louis Clark's Still Life which put Betty Thatcher's poems to well known classical pieces. Emma's album is more operatic, not in English, and the musical themes are likely less well known to the average listener.

  Carmine Meo
Carmine Meo (New Artwork)
Image © 2001 Pendragon Records/EMI

Aside from the vocals and the underpinning instrumentals, there are a few significant sound effects, including thunder claps and other natural effects that likely relate to the song themes. Solos often precede the instrumentals and support the overall theme of the album where vocals lead and instruments follow. There are recognisable classical themes that appear throughout the album.

Carmine Meo is generally available through most online sources and good local CD shops worldwide. For additional online coverage of Emma Shapplin's work, including soundbites and video clips, checkout the following two websites:

The Emma Shapplin Website is emerging official website devoted to Emma Shapplin and related artists that includes her biography, discography, a multimedia section as well as links to other related internet resources.

Also check out the Angelrace website devoted to music of contemporary divas including Sarah Brightman, Emma Shapplin and others. Be sure to check out the Cool Artists Section. There you will find links to excellent discographies, and the latest information on new releases. The website is loaded with soundbites.

Carmine Meo is a tremendious female vocal album and if you've enjoyed some of Sarah Brightman's work or are currently listening to similar classical crossover artists, this one is worth a trans-Atlantic journey—a must listen!

Etterna
Etterna
Image © 2002 Ark21/Universal Music

 

Five years since her debut album Carmine Meo (review), Emma Shapplin has released the stunning follow-up Etterna (Ark21/Universal Music (Canada) 4400183682, 2002). A natural evolution of the singer's initial collaboration with J. P. Capdevielle (Atylantos review) and further work with Graeme Revell on The Red Planet soundtrack, this brilliant new project--a CD enhanced with English- and French-spoken interviews--is attracting significant attention from audiences worldwide.

Graced by Emma Shapplin's stunning--coloratura soprano--lead vocal and supporting harmonies, the 12-track album was mixed principally in Kauai and was mastered at Abbey Road Studios. Blake Neely arranged The London Philharmonic Orchestra and Choir contributions. The album's material was written entirely by Emma Shapplin and produced by Graeme Revell. The collaboration has obviously been successful; the album, like her previous project with Capdeveille, is a cohesive masterwork.

From her website: Born in Paris in 1974, Emma recalls as a young girl she was far to shy "even to make a noise let alone to sing" and her family were not particularly musical. But her musical passions were aroused at the age of eleven when she heard the "Queen Of The Night" from The Magic Flute. It was a moment of transcendence, although to her amused embarassment, Emma admits this introduction to the world of opera and bel canto came via a television commercial. Nevertheless, a life-long love affair was forged. "I ran into my bedroom and tried to sing the tune immediately. That's when I fell in love with singing for the first time," she says. "I knew then I wanted to sing like that. That was the music that touched my soul."

  Emma Shapplin
Emma Shapplin
Image © 2002 Ark21/Universal Music

Like 1997's Carmine Meo and subsequent reissues, Etterna is classical-contemporary crossover-based project. Sweeping orchestral movements are effectively combined with contemporary percussion and rock instrumentation to broaden the appeal of the operatic numbers. Additional vocal layers, choirs and further sonic enhancements add colour to the lush arrangements. The Emma Shapplin interview included on the CD--and available at her website--provides further insight into the album's water-based themes. Vocal parts are perfectly mixed, highlighting Emma's range, power and sensitivity.

Emma Shapplin, whose soaring and crystalline soprano voice clearly dominates the pieces, continues to set the world standard in this emerging genre where Sarah Brightman (La Luna review, Classics review), Charlotte Church (S/T review, Dream a Dream review), Izzy (Libera Me review, Ascolta review), Sasha Lazard (The Myth Of Red) and Filippa Giordano (Passioni review, S/T review, Il Rosso Amore) comfortably compete. After the commercial success of Opera Trance, a variety of alternate versions are planned; the highly accessible "La Notte Eterna" remix is included--more or less as a "bonus track"--on the first pressing. Richly produced artwork, a full libretto and a bevy of up-to-date artist photographs adorn the package.

The first single from the album, "La Notte Etterna," is presently available from amazon.com here. Read further reviews, listen to soundbites and order the album from amazon.com here. Certain to achieve the high standards set by her debut album, we assure you that this album is worth a trans-Atlantic journey and is a must listen!


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