Few singers have had so great an impact on the classical music scene in recent years as velvet-toned Egyptian soprano Fatma Said. In 2016, she became a BBC Radio 3 New Generation Artist, the same year she made a breakthrough appearance at La Scala Milan as Pamina in Mozart’s The Magic Flute. Since then, her life has been a whirlwind of top-flight engagements, including acclaimed debuts at New York’s Carnegie Hall, Amsterdam Concertgebouw, and the BBC Proms, singing Mozart’s Requiem. Said sounds as beguilingly authentic in pop and jazz standards as she does in the classics of opera. And now, her multi-faceted artistry can be savored on Kaleidoscope, the keenly awaited follow-up to her acclaimed 2020 Warner Classics album, El Nour. Celebrating song and dance in all its glorious variety, Said takes us on an exhilarating musical journey, encompassing a breathtaking variety of styles from different eras. “I wanted to create something original and personal,” she tells Apple Music, “and since dance has always been an important part of my life, it seemed the obvious choice. I love to dance, and as a singer, I feel that, in a sense, we are always dancing. “The best way to combine classical music with popular genres is through rhythm,” she continues, “and that became my main inspiration for the album. I open with two of the earliest forms of dance—the gavotte and the minuet—and then waltz my way through France, Germany, and Austria, with a bolero and tarantella along the way. I then transition into the world of tango and swing.” Most striking is how completely at home Said sounds in everything from opera and operetta to Piazzolla and a magical rethink of the Whitney Houston classic “I Wanna Dance with Somebody (Who Loves Me).” “I sang a lot of musicals when I was younger,” she explains, “My mother’s favorite album was Phantom of the Opera, which we would listen to all the time in the car. I grew up loving the classic ‘oldies’ such as Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra, Sarah Vaughan, and Ella Fitzgerald, and was a huge fan of Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston. I also adored jazz and the intimacy of the French chanson. These were already a vital part of my singing experience before I heard my first opera—Verdi’s La traviata—when I was 13, after which classical became an increasingly important part of my life. I very much wanted to combine music from both worlds on one album as, for me, there are only two types of music—good or bad! “I don’t view my voice as having a set quality that sounds essentially the same no matter what I’m singing, but rather a flexible instrument that I adjust according to the style. ‘I Could Have Danced All Night’ or ‘Cheek to Cheek,’ for example, would sound very peculiar if sung with lots of vibrato. Every track on the album requires a completely different technique and kind of feeling. Verdi once said something I always try to carry with me: ‘To sing, you also need the voice’—in other words, the voice is not number one! The main thing is the feeling, the motivation.” Said’s multi-lingual facility—she speaks Arabic, German, French, Italian, and English—comes in especially handy with such a wide-ranging album, and also her magical ability to sound as though she is singing not in some vast, imaginary auditorium, but only for the listener. “I try to project each song as though I am singing to someone special,” she beams. “I learned that through performing a great deal of chamber music and lieder, which are my greatest passions. I love smaller venues such as London’s Wigmore Hall and singing to a family or group of friends—it creates a very special kind of intimacy and leaves me completely free to develop a relationship with particular listeners. You get much stronger eye contact, so I get a lot in return. It’s a beautiful exchange of energies.” Said was meticulous not only in her choice of music for the album, but also the way each group of tracks segues almost imperceptibly into the next, creating a seamless musical transition. She was also keen to ease the listener in by starting with a simple minuet with lute accompaniment. “I wanted the album to unfold gently, with the sound of plucked strings and voice, one of the oldest combinations in music. From there, we pick up on the minuet’s soundworld with the pizzicato of orchestral strings in the famous gavotte from Massenet’s opera Manon. I used to sing this a lot in competitions. When Manon sings, at the end, that we are not 20 every day, I always remember when I was that age [I’m now 31], at a time when I was just starting out.” In the recording studio, Said reveals, she sets herself very high standards. “I’m always critical of my singing when listening to playbacks,” she says. “I want every take to be really special—feeling the right energy, the right movement, the right swing to the rhythm, and I think we achieved that. Life is too short to sing anything you are not madly in love with, and for me, every song on the album tells a special, unique story.”

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