If there’s something at least a little bit pretentious in the way Elizaveta drops quotes by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry and references to the long list of international universities where she’s studied into descriptions of her “opera pop” style, the sheer quality of the music on Beatrix Runs backs up some of her bluster. Fortunately, the singer-songwriter leans more heavily on “pop” than on her extensive classical training, ensuring that the album serves as a showcase for her impressive technical chops without becoming too insular or affected. It’s that balance as much as Elizaveta’s tremendous voice that makes Beatrix Runs such an auspicious debut.
“Dreamer” opens the album with some fast-paced, breathy singing and staccato piano lines, setting a tone akin to the smart, contemporary pop of Patrick Wolf’s The Magic Position and Regina Spektor’s Begin to Hope. When the song’s first chorus hits, however, the full range of Elizaveta’s opera-trained voice and her ambitious approach to composing melodies both become readily apparent. She vaults across multiple octaves effortlessly, performing a jaw-dropping run of arpeggios with a full-bodied, rich tone as she sings about embracing limitless possibilities.
It’s Elizaveta’s willingness to explore those possibilities for what a pop song can sound like that elevates her material. “Armies of Your Heart” suffers for some pedestrian rhymes and a familiar narrative arc, but the unconventional, outsized melody and inspired use of dynamics bring a real sense of drama to the track. She employs a more straightforward pop hook on “Snow in Venice,” which recalls the best of vintage Elton John, but then she plays up the song’s story of globetrotting and long-distance phone calls by singing the chorus in Italian. She goes even further on “Odi et Amo,” performing its exquisite refrain in Latin while using a more conversational tone to sell the modern POV of the verses.
Instead of relying on her training as a crutch or using it as a gimmick, Elizaveta and producer Greg Wells wisely use it as a means to develop a unique and forward-thinking approach to contemporary pop. The stories she tells aren’t always novel (only the lovely “Goodbye Song” really capitalizes on the simplicity of its lyrics), but Elizaveta’s voice is immediately distinctive, and her ability to use classical techniques to heighten the scope and drama of her songs. The “I sing arias” bit may turn stale pretty quickly, but Beatrix Runs announces Elizaveta as a refreshing new talent.