Renée Fleming - Kudos

Renée Fleming concert: Review

American soprano Renée Fleming, reigning queen of the opera world, mixed huge vocal talents with down-to-earth charm to bewitch Roy Thomson Hall on April 21. .

Delving into the tonally slippery world of art song in early 20th century Vienna, France and contemporary America, Fleming sang of love, loss and enchantment, turning each piece in a miniature operatic tale.

The singer lightened up the stark mood conjured by her formal gown, accompanist Hartmut Höll’s white tie and tails, and the forbiddingly empty stage by providing spoken introductions to each set of songs.

Three composers with tight personal, thematic and compositional connections within the old Austro-Hungarian Empire opened the program.

Inadvertently foreshadowing the upcoming opening of Alexander Zemlinsky’s opera, A Florentine Tragedy, by the Canadian Opera Company, Fleming presented a set of five songs by him that traced the outlines of a failed relationship.

Two songs by Zemlinsky’s close friend Arnold Schoenberg included the early “Erwartung” (Anticipation), where desire gradually grew on a waft of slippery, lush harmonies.

The whole recital, which then veered from the equally lush music of Erich Korngold to the melodies of Henri Duparc, was an elaborate excuse for Fleming to unfurl her magical way with a musical turn of phrase and ability to shade individual vowels in a remarkable range of colours.

Here was an artist in full command of her voice as well as the music itself. If, at times, Fleming’s diction faltered a little bit, it at least was done in the service of grace.

The soprano really tested herself with “Deux sonnets de Jean Cassou,” two songs originally written in the mid-1950s for baritone by French composer Henri Dutilleux.

Despite being fiercely difficult and modern, both Fleming and Höll burnished the score into a melancholy magnificence, before crowning the official programme with “Night Flight to San Francisco,” a musical setting by American composer Ricky Ian Gordon inspired by Tony Kushner’s Angels in America.

Throughout, Höll was the ideal English-butler accompanist — being exactly in the right place, at the right volume, every time.

His piano, a Steingraeber & Söhne grand specially brought in for the concert, was a remarkable presence of its own, its clear, dark tones an inspired complement to some very serious — and very satisfying — musicmaking.

Concert, Vancouver, March 21

Renee Fleming’s Incandescent Talent Unites Disparate Works


Soprano Renee Fleming brought the house down

Vancouver Sun | March 22, 2012

Orpheum Theatre, VANCOUVER — Soprano Renee Fleming brought the house down Wednesday: no surprise, given her international stature, her enormous interpretive gifts, and her large, fond Vancouver fan base. More remarkable were her eclectic program choices and the wild emotional roller coaster ride they created.

Very few singers can expect to sing Ravel, Gounod, Korngold, and Leonard Cohen in the same recital, let alone make it all seem logically connected. Fleming’s strategy is neither coy nor pandering. She feels connected to various popular musics, and understands her artistic responsibility to contemporary composers.

This latter concern was passionately demonstrated by her performance of Ricky Ian Gordon’s Night Flight to San Francisco, a soliloquy with text from Tony Kushner’s play Angels in America. If its idiom proved unwelcome for some of the audience, Fleming sang with commitment and authority; the result was moving and magnificent.

As was more or less everything on her diverse, imaginative agenda, whose threads of ideas and stylistic interconnections created subtle revelations. Consider the pairing of Lehár and Korngold. What unexpected magic made this combination work? And, for the record, can any other soprano deliver “Marietta’s Lied” from Die Tote Stadt with more depth of feeling?

Earlier Fleming’s incandescent performance of Ravel’s Shéhérazade, that acme of sophisticated eroticism, was sung with exquisite artifice. Thanks to projected opera-style surtitles, the rich, evocative text was, for once, understandable — a practice that should be a must for future VSO performances of works with text.

A one-off recital with orchestra is tricky without the right backup team. While this was entirely Fleming’s show, conductor Sebastian Lang-Lessing and the VSO performed with admirable finesse in one of the shining events of the current season.

by David Gordon Duke

Concert, San Antonio, March 2012

Photo:  Decca/ Andrew Eccles

Renée Fleming's soaring soprano truly captivates

San Antonio Express-News | March 8, 2012

Someone needs to find the secret place from where Renée Fleming found her ravishing voice. The world needs more singers like America's reigning lyric soprano.

With a creamy tone and heartfelt phrasings, Fleming joined the San Antonio Symphony on Wednesday night for a program of unusual and highly appealing French and American repertory. A sold-out audience of about 2,400 packed the Majestic Theater for the one-night-only concert, led by Music Director Sebastian Lang-Lessing.

Fleming, an opera and lieder star since the late 1980s, has taken excellent care of the voice, which was evident from the contemplative, gorgeous, three-movement Ravel “Shéhérazade,” which highlights her new CD out this week, “Poémes.”

Fleming gestured “like a king's daughter,” admiring pretend jewelry when singing Gounod's “Jewel Song” from “Faust.”

Fleming delivered the world premiere of the richly orchestrated version of Ricky Ian Gordon's moving “Night Flight to San Francisco” from “Angels in America.” The song's drifting melody is in the style of Samuel Barber's songs.

Fleming then turned to lighter pop/rock selections, like Leonard Cohen's “Hallelujah.”

Along the way, she delighted the audience with sharp humorous comments — “This is getting dangerous, more applause for the dress,” she said, alluding to a pink outfit in the second half after a dark purple gown for the first half.

For encores, Fleming offered the crowd-pleasing and famous Puccini “O mio babbino caro,” Texan J. Todd Frazier's “We Hold These Truths” set to Thomas Jefferson's words and Francesco Cilea's “Io son l'umile ancella.”

But the lingering, transcendental moment came from the last piece on the announced program, Korngold's “Marietta's Lied.” The song expresses joy of love but turns sad with a realization of life as temporary and too short, like a Renée Fleming concert.

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