Manhattan File

With her soaring hybrid of operatic vocals and stripped-down trip-hop beats, SASHA LAZARD has emerged as downtown's newest rock goddess.

Lazard's avant-garde torch tunes have gotten her something of a cult following. When she takes the stage at Joe's Pub in a ballskirt and a tattered tank top, the chitchat stops. Letting loose with drum-and-bass versions of 18th century Russian folk songs, she could be P.G. Harvey and Portishead at an impromptu jam-or a year 2000 update of Malcolm McClaren's "Madame Butterfly." Ask her what her Slavic tales are about, and she tells you with the hint of a smile, "Heartbreak. And devastation."

"I never really fit into the opera world," Lazard says, explaining why she ditched the black-tie gowns and private recitals for Talvin Singh. "Just because I always listen to classical music," she laughs, "it doesn't mean I can't have a pop star personality."