Patricia Racette has mastered opera and is trying her voice at cabaret. Although the soprano is accustomed to singing sad songs in opera, she opened her act last evening at 54 Below with a medley of “I Got Rhythm,” and “Get Happy” backed by Craig Terry on piano . She has the pipes but not the jazz although she made a good attempt at Rodgers and Hart’s “Where or When” and “A ngel Eyes.” The latter sounded more like a blues or operatic combo than jazz as she labeled it. She credits her high school choir director with introducing her to jazz.
Racette’s strongest number, “La Vie En Rose,” was one where she captured the music of Edith Piaf and sang in French. Her heritage is French Canadian although she now lives in Santa Fe. She tried some Sondheim but it sounded more like opera than Broadway or the American Songbook when she sang “Not A Day Goes By.” Her attempt at “I’m Calm” was better as was her introduction relating a humorous story about a time when she performed Madame Butterfly with the Metropolitan Opera and forgot her breast binder.
When I asked Racette, after the performance, if she preferred doing opera or cabaret, she replied: “I love them all. There’s no difference.” That may be somewhat inaccurate. There is a difference and this performer, with a magnificent voice and a strong presence, does not break through the fourth wall to connect intimately with her cabaret audience. At times she turns her back to us and fumbles with the microphone which is always blocking her mouth. We want to see her face to watch her sing the words to her selections. Her performance seems over-rehearsed and a bit stiff for cabaret. Her voice is well-trained but her unscripted presentation skills don’t match up.
She told me she warms up “operatically” but adds, “I love the contemporary.” She quipped, “This detour is where I balance my higher note life with low note life.” That may happen in time, but she’s not there yet.
Racette’s “Diva on Detour” continues at 54 Below through March 30. For reservations, call (646) 476-3551 or www.54Below.com