Kate Radmilovic @ Mum and Dad Studios

Black coffee and cigarettes


 Last time I crossed paths with soprano Kate Radmilovic, last May, it was at an opera-meets-Broadway special within St Sepulchre Without Newgate's imposing setting.
A few spheres down from the above spiritual h(e)aven, and much closer to everyday London life, Mum and Dad photographic studios welcome Radmilovic this time; and myself, in order to assist in the creation of a showreel that will unfold the soprano's other talents; like her recent explorations in jazz territory.
Till we get to jazz, though, between finger food and lighting equipment moving around and about, there's always room for some Abba. The evening's warm-up is none other than Mamma Mia's The Winner Takes It All - or, in other words, the musical from a more pop(ular) angle, as Radmilovic's past takes on the genre didn't stray much from her dominant operatic leanings.
Dressed in a modern fitted black suit and a classy black corset, in a set stripped of all decorations but the unrelenting studio lights, she lets the music (and the body language) do the talking. Her heartfelt performance can't help but shine, thanks also to expert musical theatre pianist Charles Miller, who gives a hand.
Dancing his own dance behind the camera (literally, as he loves a good spin here and there!) Ian Burke slowly creeps and sways among studio equipment and props, till he gets that perfect shot.
When it's time for Black Coffee, the team has already warmed up and relaxed. Instead of turning the kettle on, we open a bottle of wine and rejoice in the evening's job. Kate reappears in a dramatic long black dress and gloves and takes her place by the piano. Charles follows her lead, losing his jacket and adopting a jazzy black hat for the occasion. And he's one smooth jazz player! Crafty fingers wander playfully on the keys, introducing a 180 degrees turn; Kate herself is a sensually ominous presence that plays cheekily the jazz game.
From the smoky Ella Fitzerald to the saucy Peggy Lee, Black Coffee has seen several reincarnations. Radmilovic's vocals stand closer to the former, but (re)assuming the character of the latter. Of course, no matter the transformation, her years in opera couldn't become obsolete overnight. There is a certain grandeur in her delivery and it's an interesting game to watch how her strong operatic vocals crawl and adjust to different waves and lenghts. As the cigarette smoke - and Ian's ever present camera hover, there is no doubt that jazz becomes her.
Time for take No3 and we roll the piano back and out of sight, baring the set once more to an absolute minimum. While Charles gets comfy with some wine and chocolate cake, Kate dashes back to hair and make-up.
Les Mis's I Dreamed A Dream finds her in a not really understated, but always elegant shiny red dress, which echoes the song's fervent heartbreak. Since I'm surely not the one for romantic melodies, I begin to drift (luckily I had no wires to watch this time)... I try to focus on the fact that it's songs like this that keep Les Miserables on the up for almost three decades now (or instantly propel previously unknown artists like Susan Boyle to mega stardom).
Eating away the last remaining snacks, I suggest Kate to give Why Don't You Do Right A go - another one of Peggy Lee's (or red hot Jessica Rabbit's) jazz treasures. But no matter her love for Lee, or Fitzerald, for that matter, she finds modern jazz singers like Madeleine Peyroux and Diana Krall much more intriguing; plus, she would like to opt for the more experimental side of jazz, rather than play safe with classic jazz repertoire.
Hmm... Taking risks. Isn't that what good music is all about?

Photography via the laptop screen, by a desperate DM waiting the actual promo shots.

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