Denise Leigh and Jane Gilchrist, until recently two apparently ordinary suburban mums, get the chance to show off their previously hidden abilities on Operatunity: The Winners
. Unlike their Pop Idol
counterparts, though, who did all the hard work before
winning, Denise and Jane now face an almost impossibly tough challenge to prove themselves in the rigorously exacting world of the professional opera singer. They've shown themselves to be competent musicians, but that's hardly going to be enough to cut it alongside Cecilia Bartoli, Renee Fleming or Angela Gheorghiu.
On the evidence of this album, the two sopranos may just make it happen. Certainly their voices are relatively undeveloped, and both have a lot of work to do before their sung French or Italian will begin to sound natural, but they have bags of natural talent and enthusiasm aplenty--qualities that shine through here even when diction or phrasing is less than secure. On the evidence of this selection of popular arias, it's Denise Leigh who has the more immediately appealing voice--her tone is attractively pure and sweet--whereas Jane Gilchrist is more forthright, but lacking polish. In the Figaro selections, Gilchrist's "Dove sono", for example, sounds a little forced in comparison with Leigh's more naturally legato "Deh vieni non tardar" and neither voice gels especially well in the "Canonetta sull'aria" duet. Overall, nothing here is at all bad--but nothing is especially outstanding either. As a first entry on their respective CVs, it's a creditable achievement, and one that will hopefully lead to greater things in the future. --Mark Walker