Pure Diva

John Pitt
New Classics (UK)

Australian operatic soprano Dame Joan Hilda Hood Hammond was also a champion golfer, a first-class swimmer and a keen yachtswoman. A classical singer who was awarded a Golden Disc for selling over a million copies of her recording of an aria from Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi, she transcended all the barriers normally raised between popular and classical music, between art and sport. In the two decades following World War Two, Joan Hammond established a wide international following as a soprano on stage and as a recording artist. By 1946 she was singing all the major soprano roles in Europe, the United States and Australia. She was also a sought-after singing coach and one of her students was the ravishing Australian soprano Cheryl Barker. Pure Diva is Barker’s very personal tribute to her teacher, featuring her glorious lyric soprano voice in operatic scenes, arias and songs made famous by Hammond. Rising star Guillaume Tourniaire conducts the excellent Queensland Symphony Orchestra and Cheryl Barker’s visceral portrayals of these operatic heroines convey the full emotional depth of multi-dimensional characters in extremis. The tributes with piano accompaniment provide a contrast to the preceding drama, encore pieces beloved of Joan Hammond, the biggest selling recording artist during the war. Her recording of The Green Hills o’ Somerset became a best seller and Cheryl includes it as a homage here. Other highlights on this SACD include Tatyana’s Letter Scene from Tchaikovsky’s Yevgeny Onegi
n, the beautiful Song to the moon from Dvorak’s Rusalka and the rare Shadows by Ronald Settle. Illuminating CD Notes are provided by John Steane, who was an insightful witness to Dame Joan Hammond and all the great singers of her era and those that followed.