N’Kenge in DivaLicious
FOR N’KENGE, VARIETY IS THE SPICE OF
published July 31,
was performed on July 25
at the Triad Theater
Silky, sultry and self-assured are all adjectives that immediately come to mind when reflecting
on N’Kenge. After attending her one-woman show DivaLicious at the Triad Theater on July 25, I can
add the adjectives spicy and steaming hot to the alliterated list.
Most singers with N’Kenge’s operatic pedigree and vocal acuity would be content portraying
conflicted Verdi heroines or the flirtatious soubrettes found in Mozart operas. Not a small accomplishment indeed! N’Kenge is representative
of a new brand of classical artists that are choosing to expand their musical horizons beyond the classical repertoire. Pavarotti, Caballe,
Marilyn Horne, Denyce Graves and many others have recorded albums that have included American standards, Broadway showtunes and even an
occasional pop classic; but only after they had been acclaimed as great operatic artists. N’Kenge is charting a new path by bravely delving
outside of the classical repertoire before she has become a household operatic name, and expanding her audience to those who not only love
opera but also R&B, jazz and gospel. A wise move, if I should say so.
N’Kenge lived up to the title DivaLicious by
salaciously singing the opening number “Fever” atop a grand piano. Though this diva-inspired showcase is interwoven with soulful blues and
R&B familiars, enchanting repartee and upbeat pop songs, N’Kenge unquestionably shines when she blesses the ear with her renditions of
Broadway showtunes, ballads and operatic arias.
“Quando men vo” from La Boheme was sung with all the attention to detail and sensitivity this great aria demands. “Defying
Gravity” from Wicked was belted out with bravado and conviction, and N’Kenge’s soulful styling of
“I’m Gonna Make You Love Me” with Curtis Wiley demonstrates that she is adept at blending her mellifluous instrument with male voices outside
of the classical world.
In selecting “Be A Lion” from The Wiz, N’Kenge aptly
proves that classically trained singers can credibly tackle robust, vocally challenging music that is outside of the classical lexicon without
doing damage to their operatic singing voice. “Be A Lion” is the type of Broadway showstopper that requires a singer that can belt and has a
strong upper and lower register. (Remember “Be A Lion” was made on R&B powerhouse Stephanie Mills.)
N’Kenge vocally owns “Be A Lion,” displaying her masterful use of power, breath control, and
Whether serenading with her lyric coloratura or getting down and dirty with
man-who-done-me-wrong laments, in DivaLicious, N’Kenge has found a musical format that works. This
delicious diva has discovered that mixing it up makes the taste buds excited and keeps the menu interesting. And a tasty variety it
williamgooch @ stageandcinema.com
For more information about N’Kenge’s performance schedule, go to nkenge.net.
read William Gooch’s interview with N’Kenge