Miro Contributor Camille Lapaix follows up her sterling review of classical crossover album Reminisce by interviewing its creators, Ashley Marie Slater and Luperci de Souza, better known by their shared stage name: Classique.
In the midst of rehearsals for their new show, Grande Amore, on the Silver Whisper cruise ship, I caught up with Classique’s Ashley Marie Slater and Luperci de Souza on their day off to chat about their debut album, Reminisce.
“They’re songs anyone can listen to, even if you don’t have a classical ear”
Being both classically trained, what drew you to choosing classical crossover for your album?
Ashley: We wanted to do something that allowed us to remain true to our classical roots but we really love classic film soundtracks and movie music, so it seemed like a natural fit. When I met Luperci, about two years ago, we discovered that we both love Mario Lanza, his voice, the type of music he did. He was a phenomenal singer, he could sing in any theatre, impresarios would call and ask him to sing in their theatre, they would give him carte blanche, he was that good. You don’t get that type of versatility anymore, and I really admire that. When he sang “Be My Love” in one of his first films, it was number one in pop billboard charts, so for opera singers, to achieve that kind of fame, on a pop chart? I mean, that’s inspiring!
Luperci: And his voice has inspired so many opera singers.
Ashley: Absolutely, José Carreras or Plácido Domingo, they both said “I sing now because I heard Mario Lanza when I was a kid”.
Luperci: And the songs that we’ve done in the album are songs we sing with our operatic voices, but it’s also songs anyone can listen to, even if you don’t have a classical ear, you can still enjoy that. To be honest, some operas are hard to listen to, you need to be prepared, but that’s not the case here, you can just sit down and enjoy it.
Do you think this has always been the case, in regards to classical crossover? How do you feel the genre has changed, since the Mario Lanza days?
Luperci: I think it changed a lot, the classical crossover that is famous today is the crossover between styles, rock and classical, or pop and classical, but at that time the classical crossover was considered more as a classical subtype.
Ashley: Yes, and you were still singing with an orchestra, and classical musicians, and the orchestration was a classical arrangement of someone who learned how to orchestrate classically.
Luperci: But there is no better or worse era for classical crossover, I mean I am sure someone like Mario Lanza would still be very famous today, with the repertoire he did.
Ashley: I think so too, his voice was powerful enough to inspire people, and he had the charisma. He became a household name, everybody knows him and everybody can relate to his voice and be moved by it.
Luperci: And he became famous to the non-opera world after he started doing the shows with pop singers, while still being truthful to what he was, to the voice he had, and that’s how he became known worldwide, even though he was always famous to the opera world.
“You can take an audience on a journey… that’s the part we love”
So, do you think the audience is different from one world to another then, from the opera world to the pop music world?
Luperci: I think the most difference, for me, is how you relate to the audience, because in an opera, you don’t really get a chance to connect to the audience, to see who is there, but on our experience in cruise ships, for instance, you can talk to people.
Ashley: You get to speak to them, tell them stories, present your show, and narrate it, you can take them on a journey, that’s a part we love.
Luperci: And you can create your own show, your own project, whereas in opera you are just there as an instrument to transmit what someone else wrote. You can sing the aria or the opera in your own way but it’s not yours.
Ashley: And, here, we wanted to do this vintage music that we love, but we also wanted to put our own spin on it.
Which transcribed through your orchestrations of the songs.
Luperci: Yes, we were very lucky to have an arranger from Canada, Ben Christenson, and we really tried to give him our own ideas and he transposed that in music. For instance, “Stranger in Paradise” comes from the musical “Kismet,” and we wanted to create an oriental vibe, an exotic sound, and he added a Japanese instrument to the mix, which was such a surprise, in a beautiful way.
In regards to the orchestration and your collaboration with Ben Christenson, what was your process like, what came first?
Ashley: We chose all of the songs ourselves, and in some of them we gave him guidelines, like “this one would be great with an exotic feel to it, maybe for a medium size orchestra, and some percussions”, but in other songs we just said “we trust you, you know us, do your thing”, and when we left him a blank canvas, he really surprised us and came up with things that I could have never imagined. It was amazing to find someone that we could trust that much, who knew our voices and could put together an arrangement that worked. For “Amado Mio,” which is from a musical set in Argentina, to be able to say “let’s make it a duet, and a tango” and have him run with it was incredible.
Luperci: Or “Jealousy,” which was really fun to record.
How about on stage, which song do you enjoy performing the most, does one of them has a particular importance for you?
Ashley: I love when things are fast and powerful, because you see that the audience is right there with you so I definitely love performing “Jealousy.” Hearing Luperci performing “Granada” is one of my favourite things, I love hearing him sing it.
Luperci: I have been singing it for a long time, and it is one of my favourites. Me being Brazilian, I have that latin influence, and that song just makes my blood boil.
Ashley: Also “Be My Love,” which is what brought the album together and started the project.
“If we love what we’ve made, then it is successful, at least to us”
How did the album come to be, what do you think sparked the idea?
Ashley: I think Luperci sang “Be My Love” and “Because…” in a recital, and I was like: “Oh, I love Mario Lanza too, and I love Katherine Grayson too!” and little by little this idea formed and we were able to do it this past year.
Would you continue along the same lines, if you were to release a second album?
Luperci: The next one, we are aiming to record it next year, and it’s going to include songs from different countries, because we’ve lived in seven of eight countries.
Ashley: And each of these experience leaves an impact on you, so we’re definitely going to have some popular songs, and some surprises.
Luperci: Songs like “Caruso,” which is a more popular repertoire, but that we also love, these songs became hits because they were beloved.
Precisely, so how did you find a balance between what would appeal to the public, and what was important to you?
Luperci: I think the main thing was to stay true to ourselves, and to create something we were going to be proud of. If we love what we’ve made, then it is successful, at least to us.
Ashley: Yes, and we hope that it rubbed off on the audience, because it was made with passion and care and hopefully people can hear that.
Lastly, if you could perform with anyone -besides Mario Lanza-, who would you choose the share the stage with?
Ashley: We have the same answer, haven’t we?
Luperci: Pavarotti, definitely. He is one of my biggest inspirations. The way he was able to fill out the room and to communicate only with his voice, he didn’t need any acting.
Ashley: He cried with his voice, he was happy with his voice, he did it all with the colours of his voice, and he didn’t need to do anything else.
Classique’s “Reminisce” is now available on streaming services: iTunes, Amazon, Google Play, and Spotify.
You can find out what they’re up to by following their website: www.classique.biz