Katherine Jenkins is the new young thing in that strange twilight zone between opera and easy listening. She’s 23, she’s got long blonde hair and a face that, at the right angle, looks like the young Jean Shrimpton. She poses well in black. And she has a lovely voice – pure, angelic and capable of hitting some very high notes. A bit like a female Aled Jones (whom she admires) but with one big advantage – her voice isn’t going to break.
Just like Katherine, Premi�re is a collection of sweet and pretty things. There’s the lovely Ba�l�ro, one of the traditional Songs Of The Auvergne, in which her voice floats exquisitely (shame about the added rhythm section). There’s also a pretty version of The Ash Grove in Welsh (Katherine won the BBC Radio 2 Welsh Choirgirl Of The Year competition twice); the requisite Ave Maria; the obligatory sloppy Italian ballad, Questo E Per Te; and Sweetest Love, a John Donne poem set to Bach’s Air On A G String.
In other words this is schmaltz of the highest order, sung with undeniable perfection. Universal missed a trick here, surely – this should have been out in time for Mother’s Day.
The question is what will happen to Katherine Jenkins, signed up at this tender age for a six-album deal. Does she want to go on producing sweet and pretty records, or will she be allowed to tackle something more interesting next time around?
Perhaps she is sensibly looking after her voice at this very early stage in any classical singer’s career. Certainly it sounds totally at home in the Welsh ballads. It will be interesting to see whether it grows into something bigger. It sounds good in Handel’s Lascia Ch’io Pianga, and she’s brave enough to tackle Allegri’s famously atmospheric Miserere. It’s not altogether satisfactory for the purist (that blasted rhythm section again) and she leaves the wickedly high notes for the trebles, but it will appeal to many.
Setting words to Eric Satie’s Gymnopedie No 1 is an inspired thought – one wonders why it hasn’t been done before – and Katherine’s purity of voice is perfect for this austere melody. Her diction, however, is terrible – hardly a word distinguishable, regardless of the language.
It’s also worrying that the one excursion into opera on this album is that perennial favourite, the Habanera from Bizet’s Carmen. I don’t know who chose this for Katherine, but did nobody tell her that Carmen is a sexy troublemaker? This passionless version is the equivalent of Aled Jones singing Sex Bomb. Perfection isn’t always enough.