In these days of the crossover, it is hardly surprising to find two great opera singers making a foray into numbers from Broadway musicals by such composers as Cole Porter, Stephen Sondheim, and Andrew Lloyd Webber. What's remarkable is that they seem completely at home in this music. Both say they grew up listening to it, and indeed they approach these songs with no less care and seriousness than they'd give the most demanding operatic arias, and without a trace of condescension. However, their vocal, expressive, and interpretive styles are very different, both in the solos and the duets. Terfel projects assertive manliness, tender, intimate affection, and rollicking humor without external effects, using only his incomparably sonorous voice and powerful personality. His diction is impeccably clear, and though he has sometimes let his theatrical flair spill over into Schubert songs, he is the soul of simplicity here. This is in stark contrast to Fleming's tendency to exaggerate colors and dynamics and to turn sentiment into sentimentality. Moreover, though she claims a background as a jazz singer, her "crooning" sounds artificial and unnatural. However, her top notes, culminating in a triumphant high C at the end of the final number, ring gloriously. Her voice glows and shimmers with irresistible luster, soaring from seductive whispers to thrilling climaxes. The program features a great variety of love songs, and includes an antiwar protest (from Beautiful Game), a celebration of the American dream (from Ragtime), and a rousing fun piece (from The Music Man). Unfortunately, even the best songs are marred by thoroughly corny arrangements. Listeners will find their own favorites, but the real "stars" on this record are the two singers. --Edith Eisler
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They're opera singers. OPERA.
K. Fukawa | 11/30/2008
(1 out of 5 stars)
"Ok, so I have been a fan of Broadway and Opera for quite some time, and I think most people can agree that there are distinct differences between the two genres. There is a difference in vocal training, tone, and style.
Renee Fleming and Bryn Terfel are amazing opera singers. I have seen them both live, and they are incredible. However, they are trained in OPERA. Not Broadway. They do try, but this album falls flat for me just because their voices don't sound right performing this kind of music.
Basically, I feel that if you want to hear opera singers voices to their fullest potential, you should buy an album where they perform opera. So if you are a Broadway purist of sorts and are used to hearing a certain kind of voice doing these songs, you should steer clear of this album. Or buy it as cheaply as you possibly can if you're really that curious."
Surprisingly Fine Cross-Over from Fleming and Terfel
J. De Sapio | Washington, DC | 11/29/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Bryn Terfel and Renee Fleming are two of the most acclaimed opera singers of our day. But the musical theatre fan who puts on their Broadway CD, RENEE AND BRYN: UNDER THE STARS, expecting to hear a carelessly compiled hodgepodge of songs sung by voices ill-suited to them is in for a big surprise, beginning with the first phrases of the duo's warmly sung "Not While I'm Around" from SWEENEY TODD. True, these singers' beautiful voices have greater power and range than even the best of the Broadway stars', but this is an asset in these songs, most of which are either semi-operatic in nature or call (like THE MUSIC MAN's "Seventy-Six Trombones") for such an outsize personality as Terfel's. Fleming's tonally sensuous rendition of "Moonfall" from THE MYSTERY OF EDWIN DROOD can be placed among her very finest recordings, operatic and otherwise. And Terfel is ideally suited to both "Pretty Women" from SWEENEY TODD and "Stars" from LES MISERABLES; few if any Broadway Javerts could match the impact of his "This I swear by the stars!" Kander and Ebb's "I Don't Remember You" and "Sometimes a Day Goes By" make a perfect medley here, as do Sondheim's "I Wish I Could Forget You" and "Loving You" from PASSION. The sound of Fleming's voice entering in "All I Ask of You" (THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA) is of the utmost loveliness; and though I don't care for the Jason Robert Brown selection, which sounds too much like a pop song, Fleming makes a strong impression in it. The program ends with a bang: a rendition of "Wheels of a Dream" worthy to stand beside the now-classic one by Brian Stokes Mitchell and Audra McDonald on the original cast album of RAGTIME. Welshman Terfel's natural accent is noticeable here; but if one imagines him as, say, an Irish immigrant married to an African-American woman (as Fleming here sounds uncannily like McDonald or like Leontyne Price) his accent is appropriate and his voicing of the "bridge" section ("Oh Sarah, it's more than promises/Sarah, it must be true...") especially moving. Fleming's ecstatic final high note makes one want to applaud and cheer, both for the song and for the successful "crossover" effort.