Once upon a time, there was only one attractive Welsh operatic singer who appealed to the masses and her name was Charlotte Church. Yet since Charlotte forsook the classical world to become an RnB diva, the rather gorgeous face of Katherine Jenkins has very easily slipped into her place.
Jenkins is possessed of not just media-friendly good looks, but a truly beautiful voice – she’s also been fortunate that her rise has coincided with an explosion in popularity of light classical music such as G4, Il Divo and Hayley Westenra, and her obligatory appearances at every football cup final in Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium has also helped to raise her profile no end.
As with most singers who have become popular, Jenkins has had to cope with criticism from some quarters that’s she’s not ‘real’ – just a manufactured pretty face wheeled out to dish out classical music to the masses. While it’s true that there’s nothing at all challenging here, if Jenkins’ popular renditions encourage people to check out more traditional classical fare, then where’s the harm?
While Living A Dream is more strictly classical fare than the aforementioned Hayley Westerna’s excellent Odyssey album, there are some tracks that could be easily become crossover hits. The most obvious of these is Ti Amero Per Sempre, which is probably better known as the Dolly Parton song I Will Always Love You, but sung absolutely perfectly in Italian. If you still have bad memories from Whitney Houston‘s histrionic version which topped the charts some years ago, here’s the perfect antidote.
There’s also a heartbreakingly beautiful rendition of the theme from Cinema Paradiso, while Jenkins’ version of Nessum Dorma is guaranteed to send shivers up and down spines everywhere. If that’s not enough, she performs the seemingly impossible by making an Andrew Lloyd Webber song listenable by tackling Phantom Of The Opera’s Music Of The Night.
Inevitably, over the course of an hour, it sometimes dips into naffness, with Jenkins’ rendition of All Things Bright And Beautiful being a prime example. It’s true that she sings it beautifully, but the hymn itself has been done to death over the years, and it’s impossible to hear it these days without thinking ‘Sunday school’. Similarly, the choice of predictable standards such as Over The Rainbow and Amazing Grace are a bit too safe – it would be nice to hear Jenkins taking a few risks sometimes.
Indeed, it’s when Jenkins tackles some more traditional fare that she really comes up trumps. Her treatment of Catalani’s aria from La Wally, Ebben? Ne Andro Lontana is just lovely while David Of The White Rock is given a nicely dramatic ambience thanks to the spare instrumentation of harps accompanying her.
Special mention must also go to the Prague Symphony Orchestra who lend some tracks a beautifully atmospheric air and really enhance Jenkins’ voice. The subtle work of the orchestra on Don’t Stand At My Grave And Weep is enough to bring a tear to the eye.
So let the classical music purists get all sniffy – this is another accessible album from the talented Ms Jenkins. Hopefully she’ll be encouraged to take a few more risks next time round, but for now expect this to be filling many a Christmas stocking this year.