On Voice of Hope
, South African soprano Pumeza Matshikiza presents a varied program of operatic arias and popular and traditional songs from Africa. This debut album on Decca is an appealing showcase for the rising operatic star, though the four arias -- Puccini
's O mio babbino caro from "Gianni Schicchi," Donde lieta usci from "La bohème," and Signore! ascolta from "Turandot," along with Mozart
's Vedrai, carino from "Don Giovanni" -- give an all too brief sampling of her talents in classical fare. A strong and powerful singer, Pumeza (as she is popularly known) sings with great intensity and emotion, and underlying her brilliant upper notes is a rich and warm lower range that is well supported. On the remaining 11 tracks, she is more relaxed and her performances have a lighter feeling; these songs are undoubtedly intended for fans of crossover or international pop music. While Pumeza's joyful personality shines in both kinds of music, Decca should have released a balanced program of arias and folk songs, to avoid the appearance of taking classical listeners for granted in the interests of expanding her audience.