Renée Fleming - Kudos

Ariadne auf Naxos, Baden Baden, February 2012


"The chief glory of the evening was hearing Renée Fleming, the Straussian soprano par excellence, making her role debut as Ariadne….  As the possessor of what is, possibly, the most beautiful soprano voice in the world, she put her vocal treasures in the service of an empathic, nuanced interpretation of the role. From the creamy top, through a rich, warm middle, to the bewitching, darker colors of her lower register, Fleming poured her magnificent sound into Strauss’s enchanting melodic arcs, animating the sadness, vulnerability, and desire of the bereft princess..."

Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Julia Spinola

Concert, New Jersey Performing Arts Center, January 2012

The Star-Ledger | With an album simply titled "The Beautiful Voice" among her many recordings, Renée Fleming may be first recognized for the sheer quality of her sound. And audiences at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center on Sunday had ample opportunities to soak in that plush, opulent soprano.

But while in fine form, Fleming made an impact with more than her musicianship. Throughout her performance with the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra under music director Jacques Lacombe, she was a warm, gracious presence. With infectious enthusiasm, she invited listeners into her world. She shared her affection for greatest hits arias as though they were new, and succinctly touted the virtues of lesser-known works.

Fleming began with Ravel's "Shéhérezade," the one newer piece for those familiar with her singing. In "Asie," the orchestra conjured exotic landscapes with serpentine winds, buoyant strings, and intoxicating swells. As the text moved on from princesses to assassins, Fleming's singing grew suddenly, surprisingly dark and penetrating.

Also in a wistful vein was Dvorak's "Song to the Moon" from "Rusalka." There was no mystery as to why this is a Fleming signature. Building intensity through its melancholy verses, her voice never lost its creamy texture, even as it gained depth and a silvery edge in its upper reaches. Her final plea rang resplendently through the hall.

Concert with Dmitri Hvorostovsky, Lyric Opera of Chicago, January 2012

Chicago Tribune | January 9, 2012

Lyric puts on a classy 'Renee and Dmitri show' to honor former CEO

[Lyric] brought the two mega-singers together for what was billed as a "subscriber appreciation concert" Saturday night at the Civic Opera House. ... The American soprano (Lyric's creative consultant) and the Siberian baritone are among the very few opera stars with the glamour, artistic stature and drawing power to sell out such an event. Sure enough, the auditorium was packed for the concert, which showcased Fleming and Hvorostovsky in a program of favorite duets and arias, accompanied by the Lyric Opera Orchestra under its music director, Andrew Davis.

Fleming modeled a succession of gorgeous Douglas Hannant creations, the first a pale green gown with voluminous cape, the second a gauzy symphony of brown and black. Not to be outdone on the fashion front, her partner variously sported a long tuxedo jacket with sequined lapels and a rakish black-shirt-and-black-trousers outfit.

Although not known as regular collaborators, Fleming and Hvorostovsky recorded some of this repertory for a Decca DVD, "A Musical Odyssey in St. Petersburg," which was released last year. On the video, as well as at Saturday's concert, they clearly made a comfortable and congenial duo, their voices blending beautifully, playing off one other with an emotional intensity that seemed as natural as their vocalism.

Both the father-daughter duet from Act 1 of Verdi's "Simon Boccanegra" and the Leonora-Di Luna duet from the final act of that composer's "Il Trovatore" were cases in point. There was mounting excitement, followed by tenderness, in the scene where Hvorostovsky as the eponymous corsair-turned-doge recognizes Amelia as his long-lost daughter. Both singers brought abundant verbal and musical nuance to this father-daughter scene, just as they nailed the tense confrontation between Fleming's desperate Leonora and Hvorostovsky’s vengeful count....

Between them, the singers generated considerable sizzle in the final scene [of Tchaikovsky's "Eugene Onegin"], in which the tormented Onegin regrets his callous youthful behavior toward Tatiana and urges her to flee with him. She admits she still loves him but tells him that, since she is now married, with a position in society, she will not forsake her responsibility. They nailed the scene with unforgettable vocal and emotional impact, making it the highlight of the program....

Each artist [also] got to sing two arias on his or her own. Fleming sang the lyric-soprano chestnut, "Io son l'umile ancella," from Cilea's "Adriana Lecouvreur," with melting legato and dreamy delicacy of phrasing. She also got to present the single novelty of the evening, "Give Me Some Music," from Samuel Barber's "Antony and Cleopatra," which Lyric staged in 1991. The expressive, darkly alluring sound she brought to Cleopatra's scena made one eager to hear her in the full opera; Lyric should consider reviving its production for her.

The event ended with an encore — Fleming and Hvorostovsky singing and dancing their way into the audience's hearts (as if they hadn't already) in Lehar's "Merry Widow" waltz.

-John von Rhein

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