Classical opera and rock have often made strange bedfellows and musicians from either genre dabbling in the other tends to lead to staunch fans of both genres becoming a bit sniffy about it. There have been some glorious exceptions, of course, with bands like Queen, Muse and Trans Siberian Orchestra providing some of the more successful and popular examples of when genre cross-overs have worked, but when you get a truly operatic voice such as Patrizia’s, it’s difficult to think of anyone other than Montserrat Caballe who has achieved any kind of mainstream success and, even then, you’d have to concede that Freddie Mercury’s presence was the main reason “Barcelona” bothered the charts. “Rock The Throne” (written on the cover of this album in a very Iron Maiden-esque font) is a compilation album from her four albums and one EP which, together with some new material, provides an overview of her career so far. The music fuses classical opera and rock, taking covers of well known songs (such as Radiohead’s “Creep”, The Cranberries’ “Zombie” and Queen’s “The Show Must Go On”) and placing them side-by-side with creative takes on classical pieces such as Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata”, Carl Orff’s “O Fortuna” (from Carmina Burana) and Bellini’s “Ah! Non Credea Mirarti” (from La sonnambula), many of which you will recognise, even if you are not particularly familiar with the titles.
Does it work? It’s quite difficult to give a definitive answer because I imagine that it is all a question of taste and, whilst I’m sure there will be some people who will absolutely love this, I imagine there would also be many people who really wouldn’t care for such a wholesale fusion of the two musical worlds. Italian-born Canadian Patrizia most certainly has an astonishingly good voice and there are several moments where her vocal performances are nothing less than jaw-dropping. This, however, doesn’t mean that her voice suits some of the material and there are definitely some songs which work better than others in this operatic rock style. Opening song, “Zombie”, for example, where it is a relatively straight reading of the song, with the only real difference from the original being Patrizia’s soprano vocals. In my opinion, this is the kind of cross-over that doesn’t particularly work, because the arrangement isn’t adventurous enough. The same could also be said about “Creep” (although it has to be said that Patrizia’s vocal performance during the bridge is exceptional), but, thankfully, “The Show Must Go On” is a beautifully different reading, with some truly beautiful, intricate piano playing from Mike Garson (David Bowie, “Aladdin Sane”) providing the classical texture to give the rendition extra depth. It’s also quite a tasteful, restrained vocal from the leading lady which allows the composition to build up to the end’s fulfilling crescendo.
In my opinion, when “Rock The Throne” really excels is when the classical material is taken and given that extra rock dimension. “In Silence (Adagio)” is a particularly pretty piece, “My Beloved (Moonlight Sonata)” is handled with taste and restraint whereas “Seduction (Habanera)” attempts to inject as much an energy and excitement into Bizet’s “Carmen” as possible and succeeds. Mozart’s “The Magic Flute” is the base material for “Rage (Queen Of The Night)” and Patrizia’s deft operatic interpretation, backed by some playfully arranged strings, is thrilling and joyful. The end of the album is slightly disappointing because “Defiance – (O Fortuna)” lacks the kind of rock power to really bring the best out of Orff’s most well-known piece (I imagine that the kind of sound Metallica achieved in “S&M” would work terrifically with this composition and Patrizia’s voice) and “I Won’t Stop Believin’” really doesn’t fit in with the rest of the material at all, being very pop-influenced and lightweight. It’s probably the only song on the whole album I’d say I disliked, so it is unfortunate that it closes the album.
To surmise, I would certainly urge people, if they are all intrigued by this kind of operatic rock fusion, to give Patrizia’s “Rock The Throne” a listen. Her magnificent four-octave voice is an impressive instrument and it’s gratifying to hear that it’s in the hands of somebody who has the musical intuition to use it emotively. It’s quite an eclectic album and you can tell that a huge amount of thought has been put into skilfully arranging these tracks, some of which truly are accomplished. I admit to being sceptical about this album when I read the description and first started to listen to it, but playing “Rock The Throne” a couple of times completely won me over and Patrizia’s interpretation of the majority of these pieces add a brand new dimension to compositions we have all heard many times before. Not every track on the album is utterly brilliant, but more than a handful of them are and they make “Rock The Throne” well worth checking out.
Patrizia’s “Rock The Throne”, a compilation of songs from throughout her recording career, is out now. Please visit http://www.patriziamusic.com/ for more information and details on how to listen to and buy her music.
Andy Sweeney, 17th July 2014.