Clémentine Margaine prowled the RBA like an exotic and rather dangerous feline. A total stage animal, she created a stunning series of female personae, from the virginal to the very much not, to bring to life a well curated selection of Spanish and French pieces. She started with the 7 Canciones populares Españoles of de Falla which set the tone as they communicate a wide variety moods and temperaments in a very short space of time. Each little song was fully invested with its own drama. And her eyes. Incredible! Granados’ La maja dolorosa followed. By this point I was really beginning to understand why Ms. Margaine is so sought after. It’s a big, dark, sexy voice. I would probably have realised the sheer size of the voice more on Wednesday if I hadn’t been comparing her to the absolutely enormous sound of Anita Rashvelishvili. It’s a wonderfully expressive instrument perhaps lacking a really strong upward extension but, overall, lovely to listen to.
Three French pieces came next. First the relatively chaste Adieux de l’hôtesse arabe of Bizet, followed by a sparkling account of Oh! la pitoyable aventure, Conceptión’s aria of frustration at the patheticness of the men in her life from Ravel’s L’heure espagnole. And then came the pièce de résistance, the Habañera from Carmen, the role she’s currently singing at the COC. She sang this while navigating the stairs and bleachers of the RBA in scary stillettoes. In all the recitals I’ve been to in that space it’s the first time I’ve seen someone try that. She seems to invest everything she does with the maximum of drama. She finished up with Weill’s Youkali, in a style more operatic than I personally like for this piece, and Obradors’ El vito with an Argentinian tango as a smoking encore. Stephen Hargreaves was at the piano and did a fine job though, as a mere human, he was somewhat upstaged. Cats are like that.
Picture pinched from Jennifer Szeto.