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Dawn Upshaw: The Girl with Orange Lips

5.0 out of 5 stars 9 customer reviews

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Audio CD, August 2, 1991
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Editorial Reviews

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This was a seminal recital album: Dawn Upshaw not only came of age artistically but showed the world she wouldn't be maintaining the status quo repertoire. The program is a carefully sequenced succession of darkly mysterious exotica, including Maurice Delage's Four Hindu Poems, Stravinsky's Three Japanese Lyrics and Ravel's Three Mallarme Poems, all abstractly poetic and couching the voice in chamber ensembles with unusual instrumental combinations. What makes Upshaw so perfect for this is that her clarity of voice and purpose keep it all from becoming puzzling and obscure. --David Patrick Stearns
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Product Details

  • Performer: Dawn Upshaw
  • Composer: Manuel de Falla, Maurice Ravel, Igor Stravinsky, Earl Kim, Maurice Delage
  • Audio CD (August 2, 1991)
  • SPARS Code: DDD
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Nonesuch
  • ASIN: B000005J0T
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #79,248 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Audio CD
The two elements that uphold Dawn Upshaw's art are her riveting musicianship and her effortless and unerring artistic taste. Listening to her sing, one tends always to think of an instrumentalist applying her art, rather than a singer parading herself, so free of artifice and self-congratulation is her work. It seems that on no other recording of hers is this assessment more true than on this marvelous disc. The de Falla is wonderfully chosen as the opener, biting, with an almost corrosive undertone, and yet a lesson in perfectly balanced legato singing art. Ravel's setting of Mallarme's poems has never been treated more wisely than Upshaw's version here, in an ample expression of all the vision and complexity that characterises this difficult cycle. Only Jessye Norman's ravishing Ravel comes close to the beauty found in this disc's transcendent reading. If Stravinsky's beautiful `Japanese Lyrics' are hung like the moon at night, Dawn Upshaw is the night adorer. These three miniature masterpieces weigh out among the supreme offerings on this disc, Upshaw's clean, modern sensibilities perfectly matched to Stravinsky's tiny, divine `antidote' to his epic `Sacre', coming as it did directly on the heels of the completion of that epoch defining work. Though some have hinted that the Earl Kim cycle `Where Grief Slumbers', originally written in 1982, and here in the 1990 version recast for double string quartet, suffers from a musical language too intimate, too impenetrable to succeed, Upshaw makes a radiant case for this unusual song cycle. The oblique caress of `Listen to it rain', and the devastating romance of `Ophelia' would seem capable of convincing the most intransigent opponent of this kind of confessional art.Read more ›
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Thank God for musicians who are dedicated to expanding the repertoire which we are able to hear in performance and on recordings. So many artists are afraid to venture into 20th century art song/chamber repertoire and we have in turn been left wanting.
This is simply one of the most amazing recordings I've ever heard. Dawn Upshaw's voice is clear as a bell and deep with emotion--and her technique does not waver here, it is entirely classical and fabulous. I cannot praise her choice of repertoire more--every cycle, every song is entirely unique and remarkable. Earl Kim's cycle is breathtaking.
Don't walk, run. You need this.
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I have all of Dawn Upshaw's discs but this is still my favorite (maybe White Moon is a close second). Upshaw brings together masterpieces of the early and late 20th century in various chamber ensembles, linked together thematically/stylistically by an international flavor. The two Stravinsky pieces (Poems of Balmont & 3 Japanese Lyrics) albeit sound like Stravinsky, retain an eastern-sounding aura to them. The same can be said of the Delage 4 poems. The true find on the disc are the Earl Kim "Where Grief Slumbers" songs. Taking his text from the symbolist poets, Rimbaud and Apollinaire, Kim fashions a suite of some of the most contrasting and emotionally powerful songs. Earl Kim's setting of 'Ophelia' is perhaps the most moving. Upshaw performs the entire 5 minute song a capella until nearly the end when the strings enter; one can almost hear her drowning.
Upshaw is a true pioneer of the operatic/vocal world. Some of her predecessors like Jan DeGaetani helped pave the way, but Upshaw has picked up the mantle, trying to fuse the repertory in such a successful way that listeners can ultimately and only benefit. Vocally it doesn't matter if she's singing Mozart, Ravel, Stravinsky or Kim, she meets the challenges head on and is able to communicate through her heart and mind. She can soar between octaves and registers with the greatest of ease connecting phrases as if anyone could! Everyone should take notice and give it a spin.
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This might be my favorite recording by Dawn Upshaw, and she's done some wonderful work. The slightly startling title is taken from Earl Kim's song cycle Where Grief Slumbers, one of the highlights of a very well-conceived program. Of Kim's gorgeous set of seven songs, the real stunner is "Ophelia," with a dramatic a capella opening that Upshaw handles immaculately, before the harp and strings enter with their mellow accompaniment.

The Ravel Mallarme songs show Upshaw in sparkling, sensuous form, and I also loved the four Delage works, perhaps because of their relative rarity. But the entire program is quite interesting, and further, most of these works have not been recorded to death -- a great compliment to Upshaw's programming instincts.

In every track, Upshaw radiates confidence and produces a beautiful range of tonal colors matching the vivid writing, and offers exceptionally clear diction (although I can't vouch for the accuracy of her French). Nonesuch provides excellent sound quality, capturing the clarity of her voice as well as the gentle, outstanding accompaniments by the well-chosen cast of instrumentalists. For those inclined toward unusual repertoire, this can't be recommended too highly.
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