Cilea: Io son l'umile ancella - Adriana Lecouvreur
Catalani: Ebben? Ne adnro lontana - La Wally
Massenet: Je suis encore etourdie - Manon
Massenet: Adieu notre petite table - Manon
Bizet: Micaela's aria - Carmen
Gounod: Je veux vivre - Romeo & Juliette
Verdi: come in quest'ora bruna - Simon Boccanegra
Bellini: Casta Diva - Norma
Verdi: Bolero - Les Vepres Siciliennes
Surely, Renée Fleming has one of the most beautiful voices to be heard anywhere today. It combines velvety warmth, creamy richness, soaring radiance, and flawless purity, and seems to flow out without effort, every ton... more »e impeccably centered and in tune, capable of almost too much variety of color and nuance. Fleming's breath control is incredible; she can spin out long, arching phrases and build up climaxes with thrilling intensity. The program of this recital displays Fleming's vocal and dramatic gifts to full advantage, and includes both familiar and lesser-known arias from Italian and French operas. Although some of these are not in her repertoire, she clearly feels close to them. The three opening Puccini favorites from Gianni Schicchi, Madama Butterfly, and La Bohème are a bit fussy and over-inflected, hardly suited to the characters' simplicity; but, from then on, Fleming seems completely at one with both her tragic and her lighthearted heroines. She captures their warm inwardness, rapture, passion, ecstasy, and desperation; darkening and lightening her voice at will. Her top notes soar gloriously, her trills laugh. The orchestra is splendid, supporting her all the way and sounding wonderful. --Edith Eisler« less
Surely, Renée Fleming has one of the most beautiful voices to be heard anywhere today. It combines velvety warmth, creamy richness, soaring radiance, and flawless purity, and seems to flow out without effort, every tone impeccably centered and in tune, capable of almost too much variety of color and nuance. Fleming's breath control is incredible; she can spin out long, arching phrases and build up climaxes with thrilling intensity. The program of this recital displays Fleming's vocal and dramatic gifts to full advantage, and includes both familiar and lesser-known arias from Italian and French operas. Although some of these are not in her repertoire, she clearly feels close to them. The three opening Puccini favorites from Gianni Schicchi, Madama Butterfly, and La Bohème are a bit fussy and over-inflected, hardly suited to the characters' simplicity; but, from then on, Fleming seems completely at one with both her tragic and her lighthearted heroines. She captures their warm inwardness, rapture, passion, ecstasy, and desperation; darkening and lightening her voice at will. Her top notes soar gloriously, her trills laugh. The orchestra is splendid, supporting her all the way and sounding wonderful. --Edith Eisler
Trevor Gillespie | San Jose, California United States | 10/20/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The title to my review is the reason why you should buy this CD. I feel that every album Renee Fleming puts out should just be called the title of one of her best albums: "Beautiful Voice" and with each successive album, she should just add a Roman numeral. I believe that would make this Beautiful Voice III or IV. Regardless, I say this, because that's what Renee Fleming has. In every way, she has a beautiful voice. Someone in their review asked, "Do we really need another recording of "O Mio Babbino Caro"? My answer is yes. Every recording soprano should record the basic and famous repetoire. This is how we make comparisons of singers. It is also how we get to hear great works given the special touches of each individual. Something too MUST be said of Charles Mackerras. Here is probably one of the best living conductors that just goes around making incredible music but not making a huge fuss or name for himself. He conducts the orchestra to perfection, in effect, making a perfectly fit glove for a perfect hand. The songs on this CD are ones that have touched many opera fans many times over. Presented on this disc, they are here to touch you again (in beautiful Decca sound)"
An essential Diva Disc
email@example.com | Kampen, The Netherlands | 10/03/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"A mutual opera fan and I were discussing the pressing issue of "Diva Recitals" the other day. Do we really need another recording of a Diva singing arias which every single Diva since time in recording history has already sung and recorded? How many "O mio babino caro's" can any single collection handle? On the strength of this recording, I have to answer: "Bring on the Dancing Divas."Let's start with the repertoire: with the possible exception of Manon's first act arietta and the aria from Verdi's "Simon Boccanegra" every opera fan is likely to have at least four different recordings of the arias on this disc readily at hand. These pieces have been done to death. Why would anyone with the international stature of Renee Fleming wish to record them? The answer lies simply in artistry. When listening to this recital, one aspect stands out even above the stature of the singer: the sheer artistry of Sir Charles Mackerras and the London Philharmonic. Together they breathe life into the music, far beyond what might be expected. Listen to the incredible detail in Butterfly's famous aria and the music seems almost new. This quality never falters throughout and can indeed be described as phenomenal, as is the quality of the sound recording.Be that as it may, however, the disc is yet another vehicle for a star singer and Fleming rises to the occasion brilliantly. Unlike her "Beautiful Voice" disc, which was really too much of a vehicle for the title, Fleming here brings something special to every character and begs the question: is there anything this woman cannot do at the moment? Verismo opera has certainly not been her trademark, yet she takes to it as if to the manner born. For me the "Adriana Lecouvreur" aria alone is worth the price of the disc and the rest of the Italian inculsions are not far off. She has the uncanny ability to capture character within a few notes. This is no empty "Fleming sings Fleming" experience - rather it is a collection of characters brought to life by the same artist. The French repertoire is closer to what we know she is singing at the moment. Her "Manon" cries out for a complete recording, although this is unlikely, given the recent issue on EMI with Pappano and the Alagnas. The rendition of Michaela's aria from "Carmen" has to be the most exquisite in living memory and Gounod's Juliette is suitably rendered: not just another display of waltzing coloratura. For the final three tracks Fleming turns to "bel canto", where so many singers are often discovered as "bel cannot". Verdi's "Simon Boccanegra" does not fit exactly into this mould, but Amelia's aria certainly calls for pure "bel canto" singing. Norma's infamous "Casta Diva" is sung masterfully and raises serious questions about a future assumption of this role by Fleming. Why was the cabaletta not recorded, though? As a suitably jaunty finale she sings the famous Bolero from "I Verspri Sicilliani" in its original French guise and includes a perfectly edible top E to round off proceedings. "Brava!" I scream. "More!"For the devoted fans this disc proves that we are not misguided in our devotion: wonderful things are happening to the Fleming voice, such as the added colours in the middle and bottom range. She also proves that her lyric coloratura abilities are beyond question - where have you heard such wonderful trills recently, apart from Gruberova? Above everything else, though, this recording offers a perfect introduction to the standard soprano repertoire for people who might as yet be unfamiliar with it. You'd have to search far and wide for anything better."
My first "opera" CD
M. Bish | 01/05/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I have never listened to opera -- the vocal styling of Loreena McKennitt is the closest I've come to enthusiasm for a singing storyteller and my favorite pop female vocalist is k.d. lang.I heard Renee Fleming perform Shenendoah on the Today show on New Year's Day. I was mesmerized by her voice and knew I wanted to buy "Renee Fleming", despite my disinterest in opera. Again, I had never listened to opera -- nothing about it appealed to me. Until I listened to this album. Something about this voice -- an utter purity and clarity and richness that sends shivers running through my bones. This is Beauty! There is no other word.I know nothing about these arias or the operas from which they come, I know nothing about how previous singers have interpreted these arias. I only know that my body responds with a delight I can't explain when I listen to this CD."
Delineation Between Characters and "Golden Age" Singing
M. Bish | Rochester, NY United States | 12/08/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This, Ms. Fleming's latest recital for London/Decca, is a wonderful glimpse of a "full lyric" soprano in her prime. Her interpretations are heartfelt and all are imbued with an incredible amount of humanity, she inhales life into this gallery of characters. Granted, this is a bit of a compilation disc in that everyone has heard most of these arias sung by at least three different "divas"; however, in some cases, these interpretations will make you forget all others.She begins with "O mio babbino caro", possibly the shortest aria in all of the soprano repertoire, but certainly one of the most emotional. Her Lauretta is plaintive and gorgeously sung. Initially, I found the audible breaths taken after nearly every phrase distracting but after comparing this aria with the others on the disc and seeing that she has absolutely no trouble with aspirated singing elsewhere, I realized they functioned merely as an effective means of expression. Immediately following this resounding success is another in the form of "Un bel di", the frequently excerpted aria from Puccini's MADAMA BUTTERFLY. It is shorn of its recitative, Ms. Fleming opts instead to dive directly to the core of the character. From this reading, the listener gets the sense that Butterfly knows she's been deserted but speaks optimistically of her lover's return as a means of consolation to herself and her maid, Suzuki. Ms. Fleming's technique is so secure that there is no hint of vocal strain as she builds elegantly to a wonderfully executed climax. Up until now, my favorite versions of Liu's "Signore, ascolta" have been those done by Callas and (Leontyne) Price, respectively. Callas because she delivered the goods dramatically speaking, and Price because hers was a version that was beautifully vocalized. Renee Fleming somehow is able to do both, delivering beautiful pianissimi while never losing focus of the aria's dramatic heft. And wait until you hear that final note. It is so long that you will be gasping for her, it only ends when the orchestra does. Whether this is as it was originally written or just a flourish I do not know, but it is thrilling nonetheless. The excerpts from MANON are without peer and she sings the last "adieu" of "Adieu, notre petite table" with so much pathos that it will make you weep. I'd be remiss if I did not mention the last track on the CD, Verdi's "Bolero". She starts out a bit tentatively but the timidity soon vanishes as she takes long phrases with excellent breath control and confidence. She finishes with a thrilling, open-throated high D that you have to hear (many times!) to believe. Her diction is admirable throughout and Sir Mackerras lends able support, on occasion you'll think he must be communicating with Ms. Fleming telepathically they work so well together.Of course, no CD is perfect and, that being the case, I'd be dishonest if I didn't mention that her versions of "Je veux vivre" (her voice is too heavy and the fiorature is executed with more than its share of sluggishness) and "Casta Diva" (her use of legato in this aria is seamless but that is about all I can say that is positive) are not ideal; however, these are only blemishes on a thoroughly satisfying and beautiful recital."
Pure Gold and Emotion
firstname.lastname@example.org | 11/23/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Renee Fleming's self-titled CD of French and Italian opera arias is proof that a singer can be expressive, even profoundly so, while never making an ugly sound. Fleming is in glorious voice here: her sound is warm, golden, agile, and absolutely even throughout its extensive range, with a silvery high register. Yet Fleming also succeeds in suggesting a different character in each aria, much as she did on her superb "Great Opera Scenes" recording with Sir Georg Solti. Her Butterfly (in "Un bel di") is a young woman indulging in a hopeful, romantic daydream. Her Wally ("Ebben? Ne andro lontano") is sad yet determined, the "golden clouds" ("nubi d'or") of which she sings beautifully evoked in her golden timbre. Her Juliette is breathless with anticipation in "Je veux vivre"; and in Adriana Lecouvrer's first aria she conveys a touching humility. Her Manon (in two excerpts from Massenet's opera) is also a fully realized character. And all the while, Fleming sounds ravishing; she is truly the Tebaldi of our time, though with greater skill in florid singing. Her legato in "Come in quest'ora bruna" is seamless, her pianissimi in "Signore, ascolta" stunning. She is also one of the only sopranos I've heard (Joan Sutherland is the other) whose tone suggests both the golden and the silver light of the moon in "Casta diva." This CD represents some of Fleming's finest work from the very prime of her career."