Patricia Racette

Review: An Evening of Cabaret with Patricia Racette | Dallas Opera

Off to the Racette

Opera star Patricia Racette proves that life is a cabaret at the Winspear Opera House.

published Thursday, November 10, 2011

Patricia Racette may be one of the only opera singers able to cross over to cabaret successfully. She offered evidence of her cabaret chops on Wednesday evening at the Winspear Opera House. In an event for Dallas Opera patrons and season ticket holders, she sang everything from American standards such as "Here's That Rainy Day" (music by Jimmy Van Heusen and lyrics by Johnny Burke) to Edith Piaf songs such as "La vie en rose" and "Padam…Padam."

Most of her program was on the dour side, with many of the ballads dealing with sorrow, heartache and lost love. One set in particular was a medley of songs that describe a particularly painful ending of a relationship. First, there is the first notice that something was wrong ("You've Changed" written by Bill Carey and Carl Fischer). Then, there is the painful discovery of cheating ("Guess Who I Saw?" by Murray Grand with lyrics by Elisse Boyd). The awkward breakup is next ("Where Do You Start" by Johnny Mandel and Alan and Marilyn Bergman). Last is the solitary grieving afterwards. This state of despair was achieved by a negative take on "So in Love" from Cole Porter's Kiss Me Kate

All this moping was a surprise considering how happily married Racette is to mezzo-soprano Beth Clayton (who was in the audience). They share a love story that inspires others in the arts to come out and enjoy life. But this happiness was only expressed in the opening combination of Gershwin's "I've Got Rhythm" and Harold Arlen and Ted Koehler's "Get Happy." 

Vocally, Racette was stellar. She easily moves from her chest voice to her diva range without a break. In fact, the change of register is barely noticeable unless she decides to make a point of it for effect. She can carry the chest voice way up into the top of a tenor's range and teeters on basso profundo territory for the bottom notes. It is really quite remarkable and as rare a vocal ability as Yma Sumac's stratospheric high C above high C, but not nearly as painful to hear. The voice is rich and creamy from top to bottom and has a mellow, as opposed to strident, spinto sound that makes her ideal for Puccini's distraught heroines such as Tosca and Butterfly. It is little wonder that she is singing both of these roles at the Met this season. When she put down the microphone and sang "La Vie en Rose" in her operatic voice, she stunned the audience. 

Her diction was excellent. We got all her words. Even her French was superb in the Piaf songs. French uses the so-called mask (nose and sinuses) much more than English and since she sings naturally in the mask, the French vowels had little room to maneuver. Thus, her French has a honk to it that is both endearing and much like what you might hear on the streets of Paris. 

The other carry-over from opera to cabaret is her acting ability. She is able to inhabit characters and their emotions are as real as they can be without any of the over exaggerations that opera singers are wont to do. She treats each song as a little mini-opera and portrays that character in a riveting manner. Perhaps this is why the program is so laden with unhappiness since this is an emotion that cabaret shares with opera. 

The big question is what kind of vocal toll a performance like Wednesday's cabaret will take on the voice over time. Racette studies with Trish McCaffrey, one of the best voice teachers working today, who teaches both opera and pop stars. This combination makes her the perfect teacher for Racette, who aspires to both styles. Hopefully, she is keeping a careful ear out for any sign on damage. 

Racette is still young and the voice has amazing flexibility, not to mention that anyone who can sing Tosca or Butterfly has endurance to spare. However, by the end of the evening you could detect some wear. It was most noticeable in her speaking voice as she gave her usual and charming introductions to what she was singing next.

This worry aside, Racette presented a first class cabaret performance that will linger in the memory for years to come.

◊ Read Gregory Sullivan Isaacs' interview with Racette in the Dallas VoiceThanks For Reading


SarahB writes:
Thursday, November 10 at 7:07PM

I'm dying to see Pat do her cabaret! Apparently, she's done it in NYC, but there was no pre-press about it. Thanks for the review and giving me a taste.

RichardA writes:
Wednesday, November 16 at 7:30PM

She has also done a cabaret in DC--at the Austrian Embassy, no less--and I believe she is supposed to do it again in NYC in the coming year.

View the Article Slideshow

Comment on this Article

Share this article on Social Media
Click or Swipe to close
Off to the Racette
Opera star Patricia Racette proves that life is a cabaret at the Winspear Opera House.
by Gregory Sullivan Isaacs

Share this article on Facebook
Tweet this article
Share this article on Google+
Share this article via email
Click or Swipe to close
Click or Swipe to close
views on theater, dance, classical music, opera and comedy performances
news & notes
reports from the local performing arts scene
features & interviews
who and what are moving and shaking in the performing arts scene
season announcements
keep up with the arts groups' upcoming seasons
listen to interviews with people in the local performing arts scene
media reviews
reviews and stories on performing arts-related film, TV, recordings and books
arts organizations
learn more about the local producing and presenting arts groups
performance venues
learn more about the theaters and spaces where the arts happen
keep up with fabulous ticket giveaways and other promotions
connect to local arts crowdfunding campaigns
post or view auditions and performing arts-related classes, services, jobs and more
about us
info on TheaterJones, our staff, what we do and how to contact us
Click or Swipe to close
First Name:
Last Name:
Date of Birth:
ZIP Code:
Your Email Address:
Click or Swipe to close
Join TheaterJones Around the Web

Follow Us on Twitter

Subscribe to our Youtube Channel

Click or Swipe to close
Search the TheaterJones Archives
Use any or all of the options below to search through all of reviews, interviews, features and special sections. If you are looking for a an event, use the calendar section of this website. This search will not search through the calendar.
Article Title Search:

Description Search:
TheaterJones Contributor:

TheaterJones Section:

Showing on or after:      Showing on or before:  
Click or Swipe to close
We welcome your comments

I am discussing:  

Your Name:
Your Email Adress:

please enter the text below and then click or tap SUBMIT :