Stacey Kent Trio with Jim Tomlinson and Art Hirahara
(Theatre Maisonneuve, 1 July 2023. Review by Sebastian Scotney)
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The FIJM programme had described this concert as a ‘homecoming’. At the beginning of this concert, her ninth appearance at the festival, Stacey Kent was awarded the Prix Ella Fitzgerald by festival co-founder Alain Simard.
Simard reflected that Stacey Kent’s real breakthrough with the Montreal audience had come with the 2010 album “Raconte-Moi”; her most-streamed track, which is from that album, Jobim’s “Waters of March” in French, was on the programme last night. The New Jersey-born singer has (source Wikipedia) album sales of over 2 million and 400 million streams, and is a global phenomenon. This was the last night of her current touring season. She announced that she will have a new album out by the time she starts touring again in October.
Musical values are high; pianist Art Hirahara is infallibly classy. His quiet piano excursion on “Blackbird” was gorgeous. One could sense and see an audience being drawn in by her hushed and almost improbably slow versions of songs such as Jacques Brel’s “Ne Me Quitte Pas” (in English) and Leo Ferre’s “Avec Le Temps”. I could see the couple in front of me reaching out to each other several times to hold hands. Kent’s diction is always impeccably clear in English, French or Portuguese, and the musical miracle is her ability to carry and give shape to a vocal line consisting of relatively cropped syllables.
In addition to the classic French and Brazilian songbooks, Kent’s repertoire is being extended through the addition of new repertoire with music by Jim Tomlinson and lyrics by Kazuo Ishiguro. “Tango in Macau” and “Bonita” are respectively about finding reasons to exit a relationship, and the uncertainty of being in one. “I wish I could go travelling” is a reflection on the pandemic. The test will be if other singers chose to take these songs on, warm to the occasional quaint drift into bemused banality, and give them wider currency.
Stacey Kent talked (repeatedly) in French last night of the pride and intense emotion she was feeling about being in Montreal; with several standing ovations, the capacity audience showed how pleased they wre that she had come back.