Bizet to Broadway by Natalie Sternberg at theSpace on North Bridge delivered exactly what the show title suggests, a selection of well-known Broadway and Classic standards, plus a few extra songs that are, as we find out, personal favourites of this young singer.
This is Natalie’s first visit to the Fringe and her nerves were showing at times in this performance but, taking that into account, there was a nice and smooth introduction to each song and a little bit about the song too (always helpful). Having said that though, a cross-over musical format like this one is always going to be difficult as opera and musical theatre require two very different skill sets, and often an operatically trained voice can be so precise that it has difficulty with the sometimes different vocal delivery style required for musicals. Choosing any selection of songs is difficult enough, but particularly when some of the songs are not written for someone in your vocal range, in Natalie’s case a soprano.
I have to be fair to Natalie here and take into account that this is a singer and performance artist at the very start of any career that she may wish to have, and some of the roles here, and the songs, no one of Natalie’s current level of experience is going to get close to for some years to come. That need of experience and development is obvious on a role like Carmen and the classic “Habanera” (one of my favourite operatic roles and songs) as it requires a real understanding of the character to perform to its best. To expect Natalie to be performing arias like this the same as a performer years beyond her experience level is not realistic. Likewise, “I Dreamed A Dream” from Les Miserables requires I think some “life experiences” and a certain age to give this song its full emotional depth. Some singers’ voices are also so unique that anyone trying to cover their songs,(particularly when they were at their peak) is going to make their life difficult, and Kate Bush is one of those singers for me.
To be fair to Natalie, this was a pleasant performance and what I think Natalie really needs, like any artist out, is simply time and experience to develop as an singer and performer and to get beneath the technical notes and words of a song to the emotions underneath them. Sometimes it can be under-estimated that technical skills and performance skills are two separate skills that have to be mastered and merged together. Over the years, the performance styles of opera and musical theatre do seem to be coming closer together, but opera always has that one unique difference – no microphones for the singers, only voice projection, so it was a little odd to hear some of opera’s best known arias performed with one, but in the context of the overall show, that can be allowed. Even then though, a trained soprano just does not need to be anywhere near that close to a microphone.
This was, I think, not an opportunity to be hearing Natalie at her vocal best as the performance room itself was not suited acoustically to the show, and the backing music tracks that Natalie was performing to were of low audio quality. A few technical issues on sound did not help either.
Unlike most of us, performers learn their craft in full view of everyone, and it would be interesting to re-visit Natalie Sternberg again in a few years’ time and in a performance space more acoustically suited to her vocals.
Bizet to Broadway Natalie Sternberg
theSpace on North Bridge
Country United Kingdom - England
Group: Natalie Sternberg
Review by Tom King