Miro Contributor Camille Lapaix dusts off her phonograph and immerses herself in Reminisce, the debut album from classical crossover duo, Classique.
A collection of vintage Hollywood tunes coloured by a pristine classical training, Reminisce equally explores beloved hits and more obscure songs from the fifties’ silver screen.
Classical crossover – the fusion of classical and popular music – has been an increasingly cared for subgenre in both mainstream and niche circles. From Andrea Bocelli and Katherine Jenkins to Sarah Brightman, Josh Groban, Il Divo or Nikolaï Baskov, there is little chance of escaping “Popera” today.
The most common problem with the genre? It is nearly impossible to not sound like capitalism.
We have all experienced its surge on the radio when Christmas comes around; we have all glanced at the EPs filled with overheard hits, sung with an operatic twist on Spotify. To quote Edwin Torres: “Got it, been there.”
This is exactly the sort of car crash that Classique manage to brilliantly avoid.
Comprised of soprano Ashley Marie Slater and tenor Luperci de Souza, the duo offer ten cherished songs from classic Hollywood films, building a bridge between opera, classical and popular music.
“Warmth and sanctity”
Reminisce opens with: “Be My Love”. Originally featured in the 1950 film The Toast of New Orleans, “Be My Love” was first sung by Mario Lanza – a distinct influence on the duo’s work and passion. “Be My Love” is the first of a patchwork of MGM and Broadway hits stitched together with an operatic perspective that offers an insight on the balance of warmth and sanctity that will set the tone of the next 38 minutes.
Classique show off their versatility on “Jealousy” – a melody that was written by Danish composer Jacob Gade in 1925 and made famous by the magical Kathryn Grayson and two swooning gentlemen, Frank Sinatra and Gene Kelly.
“Stranger in Paradise” is, undoubtedly, my favourite track on the album. Slater and de Souza’s voices not only highlight the pristine orchestral arrangements created by collaborator Ben Christenson and musician Doug Cameron, but also embrace the pure exhilaration of Borodin’s Polovetsian Dances. The thrilling intertwinement of the song’s arabesque, playful and soaring qualities could not be a better fit for the duo’s individual and harmonized vocal ranges.
Taken from the same musical, Kismet, “And This is My Beloved” is Slater’s solo. It allows her to showcase her crystalline voice and underlines the importance of choosing suitable songs for each vocal type.
“… The embodiment of the crossover genre…”
The next two songs on the album were made famous by Mario Lanza, unquestionably the common thread of this collection. “Because You’re Mine” and “Granada” have both been rekindled many times over the years, from Nat King Cole to Brad Mehldau. When interpreted by Classique (the former as a duet and the latter as a solo for de Souza and his superb grounded notes) you cannot help but be reminded of the timeless quality of these songs.
“Amado Mio” is, for me, the album’s counterpoint and the embodiment of the crossover genre. Originally from the 1946 classic Gilda, the song becomes here, under Ben Christenson’s arrangements, a heated tango, and paves the way between operatic vocals and film noir soundtracks.
The duo carries on with “Someday I’ll Find You”, composed by English playwright Noël Coward in 1930. The song has been greatly covered over the years by, among others, Doris Day, Julie Andrews or (you guessed it!) Mario Lanza, and yet after listening to Classique’s rendition, you find yourself forgetting it was not always meant to be sung as a soprano/tenor duet.
An enduring Jazz standard that survived its lesser known musical comedy Revenge With Music, “You and the Night and the Music” goes from the smoky atmosphere of a dark jazz club to the sanctity of an opera house and takes you along for the journey.
To close this excursion through Broadway classics and hits from some of MGM’s best, Classique choose the exhilarating Rodgers & Hart standard, “With a Song in My Heart”. Resonating like a show’s finale, it lets the singers’ voices intertwine as they soar, once again joined by violinist Doug Cameron.
“Slater and de Souza’s adoration cannot be ignored”
Whether it be museums, concerts or exhibitions, when confronted with art, there is a Monet quote I like to think about: “people discuss my art […] as if it were necessary to understand, when it is simply necessary to love”.
Slater and de Souza’s love, nay, adoration for vintage Hollywood favourites cannot be ignored, and it certainly cannot leave you indifferent.
The immaculacy and repertoire of Classique carries history, and Reminisce embodies and embraces this perfectly.
Reminisce is now available on streaming services: iTunes, Amazon, Google Play, and Spotify.