Singer Patricia Racette is best known for her rich and soaring soprano voice gracing the world’s top opera houses. But until this week many Dallasites were unaware she also is a master torch song artist. The Dallas Opera treated donors and subscribers to a patron appreciation recital “A Cabaret Evening with Patricia Racette.” Racette ignited the Winspear Opera House singing emotional pieces made famous by the legends Billie Holiday, Judy Garland, Kate Smith, Etta James and Edith Piaf.
The evening began with intimate simplicity: a shiny black Steinway and the gifted pianist Craig Terry at the helm introducing Racette. The opera diva that has starred with greats like tenor Plácido Domingo walked on to the softly lit stage and warmly addressed the audience. When Terry began playing I’ve Got Rhythm/Get Happy and Racette’s stunning and luscious voice slowly sang, “Days can be sunny with never a sigh…” the audience sighed.
The Winspear’s stellar night started with George and Ira Gershwin’s I’ve Got Rhythm, combined with Harold Arlen’s 1929 hit song Get Happy and ended with the passionate Edith Piaf song Mon Dieu. Racette jokingly translated Mon Dieu as “Give It To Me.” The actual English translation is “My God.” Considering the passion in the lyrics and her alluring vocal powers the title is appropriate.
Although most of the songs were laments about unrequited love, Racette proved she is also gifted with comic timing and delivery in Sondheim’s 1966 satirical The Boy From…. Holding her breath for one the longest lines in musical theater after “and I have to follow him” she sang:
“TALL AND TENDER, LIKE AN APOLLO, HE GOES WALKING BY, AND I HAVE TO FOLLOW HIM, THE BOY FROM TACAREMBO LA TUMBE DEL FUEGO SANTA MALIPAS ZATATECAS LA JUNTA DEL SOL Y CRUZ.”
Racette also entertained with murderous lyrics To Keep My Love Alive from the 1943 musical Connecticut Yankee. Racette’s renditions transformed classic songs into picturesque scenes reminiscent of the golden years of Broadway, romantic heroines in 1940s films and touching love lost memories from everyone’s personal experience. The smart lyrics by Hart, Berlin, Gershwin, Piaf, Sondheim, Arlen and Porter were beautifully interpreted and nuanced.
One of the most memorable moments was her medley: You’ve Changed (1941 Bill Carey and Carl Fischer), Guess Who I Saw (1952 Murray Grand/Elisse Boyd), Where Do You Start? (Johnny Mandel/Alan and Marilyn Bergman) and So In Love (1940s Cole Porter/Kiss Me Kate).
The songs written in different decades from America’s songbook, flowed together beautifully telling a story of the first pang of a dying romance, discovery and betrayal, the loneliness of starting over and followed by Cole Porter’s wildly romantic So In Love. Also notable was a beautifully realized rendition of Come Rain or Come Shine to Bach’s Prelude in C Major and an emotional Sondheim love ballad Not A Day Goes By (1981/Merrily We Roll Along Broadway musical).
"Piaf x 3" was captivating and perfectly performed in French. A highlight of the performance was Edith Piaf’s La Vie en Rose sung by Racette without a microphone in her moving operatic voice. Piaf’s love song written in 1946 shortly after WWII created a nostalgic mood that swept across the audience.
After three encores including a dedication to “all those who love deeply” singing Irving Berlin’s How Deep Is the Ocean (1932), fans were still reluctant to leave “A Cabaret Evening with Patricia Racette.” Singing musical masterpieces dating from 1929 through 1981, Racette charmed, mesmerized, pulled at heartstrings and created an unforgettable magical world of theater.
The Dallas Opera
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