WAO Playlist Series Curated by Caitlin Cassidy
This week Mezzo soprano Caitlin Cassidy curates our West Australian Opera Playlist. Caitlin's playlist includes recordings from some of the most celebrated female singers including Maria Callas, Edith Piaf and Judy Garland. Stream and read about Caitlin's playlist below and you can see Caitlin perform at our upcoming Opera In The Regions tour. Purchase your tickets now for our Opera in Mandurah and Opera in Albany.
Casta Diva from Norma by V. Bellini- Maria Callas
Now as a first choice this will win no prizes for originality but it is definitely one of the pieces that captured my imagination as a young person. Like Morgan Freeman says in The Shawshank Redemption “I had no idea what those Italian ladies were singing about. Truth is I don’t want to know. Some things are better left unsaid. I’d like to think they were thinking about something beautiful, it can’t be expressed in words and it makes your heart ache because of it.” It was this piece that assured me of the transcendent and universal power of opera and my wish to become a vessel for it.
La Foule- Edith Piaf
I wrote my masters thesis on how to combine classical vocal recital and cabaret performance practices. There was a period that I became obsessed with cabaret singers and chanteuses of the past. Edith Piaf’s well-documented life story is an emotional rollercoaster rags to riches tale all encapsulated in this explosion of merry-go-round carnival madness, melancholy and joy. A feast for the ears!
Can’t Live with the World- Laura Mvula and the Metropole Orkester
This song has often been a tonic for me when I have felt overwhelmed. So needless to say it has had a few rotations in 2020! The orchestrations of these songs are endlessly lush and beautiful and Laura’s voice and songwriting ability is astounding. It was a real treat to see her perform live with WASO last year.
The Man That Got Away- Judy Garland
I think we all fell in love with Judy Garland in the Wizard of Oz but it’s Judy singing songs of Harold Arlen’s greater oeuvre that really tugs at my heartstrings. Like so many singers I worship at the alter of the American Songbook but it’s something about Arlen’s writing that speaks to me very personally. A mixture of acute observation and melodrama which is so satisfying.
Cruda sorte from L’Italiana in Algeri- Marilyn Horne
This comic aria has become a bit of a signature piece for me but I first heard it sung by Marilyn Horne who along with Christa Ludwig is the pinnacle of mezzo-sopranos (which just happens to be my voice type). I will sing this in Opera in the Regions. I think it will feel very apt as just like my character Isabella finds herself in unfamiliar territory, so will this city girl! But never fear, as she and I both know how to handle ourselves!
Von ewiger Liebe by J. Brahms- Christa Ludwig
This lied is a simple domestic tale of a man and woman in love. There is a question of the woman’s fidelity and wild jealousy on behalf of the man, which is quickly quashed with her comment “our love is stronger than iron and steel”. I love this piece for many reasons but I think the economy of the storytelling was appealing to me as a young singer as much of the poetry and texts of other lieder felt too dense at the time. The word-painting is stunning in the piano part which is actually much more interesting and expressive that the vocal line, played brilliantly here by Geoffrey Parsons.
Better Things- Sharon Jones
I think I have seen Sharon Jones in concert more than any other artist. I met her briefly at Clancy’s Fish Pub in Dunsborough and she was the same radiating person offstage as well as on. She passed away not so long ago from a heart condition in her fifties which was extremely sad. This album is one of my favourites when I want cheering up or I have a difficult or unappealing task to complete. I will never forget her in that fringe dress doing the electric boogaloo!
Cello Concerto in E minor by Elgar- Jacqueline Dupré
This piece cracked my heart right open as a teenager. I think it made me realise the impact that classical music can have. How could music be that personal and so enormous at the same time? Dupré squeezes every ounce of humanity out of herself in the piece and I can’t imagine anyone else playing it.
Poème de l’amour et la mer by Chausson- Jessye Norman
I became aware of this piece in my French art song class while I was studying at Mannes in New York. The moment I heard it I had to include it in my final recital. I was totally intoxicated by both the poetry and the harmonies. It had that huge expansiveness like Berlioz and Wagner. Jessye Norman is very at home here in this recording. It will leave you drunk on lilac-perfumed French romance. You’re welcome.
Cigarettes and Chocolate Milk- Rufus Wainwright
You might think Rufus an unlikely closer to my playlist. However, not only is he an opera composer and lover but one of my favourite artists of all time. As the life of the artist can be lonely, monastic and disciplined I think sometimes we develop vices. I think the same is very applicable to quarantining and lockdowns too! Unlike Rufus, I replace cigarettes and chocolate milk with wine and online shopping but the rhyming scheme is far poorer. Thank goodness for our art which keeps us striving to be better and to serve our audiences who we adore!