Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Renée Fleming Delivers Birthday Gift Concert (Drums Included)

Fleming performing arias and songs with piano (Photo: Allen J. Schaben/Los Angeles Times)
In March, Opera Fresh discussed diva Renée Fleming's tightly packed schedule that would include a one-off concert to celebrate the 88th birthday of Henry Segerstrom in
(Photo: Christine Cotter/OCR)
Orange County. The event took place on April 5 and the Orange County Register reviews it here: "Fleming didn't sound quite warmed-up for her opening numbers, 'Adieu, notre petite table' from Massenet's Manon and 'The Jewel Song' from Gounod's Faust, her phrasing choppy and her French virtually indecipherable. No one was hurt, though; she got through them prettily enough. She eschewed simplicity in her renditions of two arias from André Previn's A Streetcar Named Desire and Dave Grusin's arrangements of 'The Water is Wide' and 'Shendandoah,' gussying them up with lustrous colors and emotive cues. The reverberant hall seemed to work against her capturing any real intimacy. Things got better with the 'Vilja-Lied' from Lehar's The Merry Widow and 'The Song of the Moon' from Dvorák's Rusalka (which Fleming
(Photo: Christine Cotter/OCR)
described as 'my signature aria'), both of which featured coherent linear singing and graceful lyrical movement. Better still were the three Italian arias after intermission, including "Vissi d'arte" from Tosca, her voice now in full bloom and supplying exquisite detail without undue clutter. Richard Bado was her steady accompanist. Leonard Bernstein's 'Somewhere' and 'I Feel Pretty' (cutely and girlishly sung) supplied the bridge to Fleming's alternative rock set (yes), a sampling of her Dark Hope CD, performed at the request of the Segerstroms with the New York studio musicians who played on the recording. Various acoustical curtains were deployed to deaden the hall for the amplified music, Fleming singing with microphone. With the aid of what were apparently lyric sheets, she dispatched numbers by Muse, Band of Horses, Death Cab for Cutie, Leonard Cohen ('Hallelujah,' of course) and Peter Gabriel. She didn't embarrass herself (a triumph in itself), but neither did she
(Photo: Christine Cotter/OCR)
really get down. She's not an earthy singer. Fleming presented it all, in spoken remarks, as something of a lark, and the audience accepted it in good cheer. She sang in her speaking range, mostly without vibrato – it was fine, not bad, not great. Fleming had apparently never performed these pieces in concert before. In encore, sans microphone and rejoined by Bado and a few of the New Yorkers, Fleming sang 'Summertime' (opulently) and 'Over the Rainbow' (in an arrangement too fancy for its own good). Then, Bado and she performed the inevitable, 'O Mio Babbino Caro' from Gianni Schicchi," another request of the Segerstroms, its climactic swoon sung directly to their box. It was lovely."
(Photo: Christine Cotter/OCR)
"Midway through the second half, the grand piano was wheeled off to the wings, revealing a display of electric keyboards, drum kit (complete with her name in bold letters on the bass drum head), microphones and monitors." [Source, Source]

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