Haunted Heart

Haunted Heart

2.5 6
by Renée Fleming
     
 

Renée Fleming has never been content merely to rest on her laurels. Recent albums have found the renowned American soprano branching out from the repertoire with which she first gained fame to tackle the high-wire coloratura of bel canto opera and the more intimate expressive demands of Handel's arias.See more details below

Overview

Renée Fleming has never been content merely to rest on her laurels. Recent albums have found the renowned American soprano branching out from the repertoire with which she first gained fame to tackle the high-wire coloratura of bel canto opera and the more intimate expressive demands of Handel's arias. Haunted Heart is no less bold -- nor intimate -- but it is an experiment of an entirely different kind: It's an eclectic mix of popular songs, ballads, and standards, exquisitely accompanied by jazz maestros Bill Frisell on guitar and Fred Hersch on piano. Striking a quietly introspective mood at the outset with the gorgeous title track, Fleming wraps her creamy vocals around such diverse pop classics as Stevie Wonder's "My Cherie Amour" and Lennon & McCartney's "In My Life" while also pulling in standards like Steven Foster's "Hard Times Come Again No More" and even Gustav Mahler's "Liebst du um Schoenheit," which, thanks to Fleming's impeccable diction and vocal skill, comes off as one of the album's finest tracks. Anyone who read Fleming's down-to-earth memoir, The Inner Voice, knows the importance of pop to the young singer's budding career, before she felt the pull of the opera stage. So Haunted Heart is something of a home-coming for Fleming. Yet it is also suffused with an appealing melancholy that seems all the more authentic coming from a performer who's been around the block, reached the top of her field, and has nothing left to prove. Critics on either extreme may find fault with Fleming's delivery -- her "classical" precision at the expense of a more natural, poplike approach or, on the other hand, her holding back so much on her full operatic voice to achieve a close-miked intimacy. Never mind them. Haunted Heart reveals yet another side to an exceptional artist who, refusing to be pigeonholed, finds success wherever her adventurous spirit takes her.

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Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - Rick Anderson
Haunted Heart is one of those albums that could very easily go either way, and as you listen through Fred Hersch's gorgeous piano introduction at the beginning of the title track, which opens the disc, you might find yourself getting a little bit anxious as you wait for the singing to start: how is Renée Fleming, one of the most acclaimed young singers on the opera scene today, going to approach this highly unusual program of jazz standards, lieder, 20th century opera excerpts, country songs, and vintage pop numbers? Is she going to give them the respect they deserve, or toss them off like a slumming diva looking for a quick crossover cash-in? Is she going to treat their texts and melodies with insight and sensitivity, or use them as an easy vehicle for virtuosic display? Then she starts singing, and you simultaneously relax (yes, she's serious about this music) and sit up and take notice (wait a minute, didn't she used to be a soprano?). The fact is, Fleming was a jazz singer before she got serious about Romantic and Baroque opera, and the lessons she learned at the feet of Betty Carter, Sarah Vaughan, Ella Fitzgerald, and Billie Holiday have obviously not left her. She spends most of her time on this album singing about an octave lower than her usual range, and this version of her voice is a revelation -- rich, dark, throaty, and powerful. While her classical training is obvious in the ease with which she negotiates and elaborates on the sometimes intricate melodic lines of these songs, her Southern roots are just as conspicuous -- just listen to her having her way with the vowels on "When Did You Leave Heaven?," a song on which guitarist Bill Frisell's accompaniment is heart-rendingly perfect. Her collaboration with Hersch on a radical overhaul of the Lennon and McCartney classic "In My Life" leaves the song both nearly unrecognizable and deeply touching, and her straightforward rendition of the Mahler art song "Liebst du Um Schönheit" is a perfect and refreshing changeup in the program. Only once or twice does Fleming threaten to overmanipulate and overpower her material: on a slightly overripe performance of "You've Changed," and on the album's final selection, a sweet and wonderful arrangement of the Stephen Foster song "Hard Times Come Again No More." Here Frisell is at his best, spinning ridiculously lovely variations out of thin air, and Fleming is just the slightest bit heavy-handed, emphatic where a lighter touch might have worked just as well or better. But neither of these songs is anything like a failure, and everything else on Haunted Heart is a delight. Very highly recommended.

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Product Details

Release Date:
05/10/2005
Label:
Decca
UPC:
0602498806029
catalogNumber:
000440602
Rank:
12553

Tracks

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Album Credits

Performance Credits

Renée Fleming   Primary Artist,Soprano (Vocal)
Fred Hersch   Piano
Bill Frisell   Guitar

Technical Credits

Alban Berg   Composer
Stephen Foster   Composer,Lyricist
Gustav Mahler   Composer
Heitor Villa-Lobos   Composer
John Lennon   Composer,Lyricist
Paul McCartney   Composer,Lyricist
Joni Mitchell   Composer,Lyricist
Lionel Hampton   Composer
Fred Hersch   Arranger,Composer
Jimmy Webb   Composer,Lyricist
Henry Cosby   Composer,Lyricist
Howard Dietz   Composer,Lyricist
Bill Frisell   Arranger
Renée Fleming   Arranger,Producer,Liner Notes
Mack Gordon   Composer
Johnny Mercer   Composer,Lyricist
Elliot Scheiner   Producer,Engineer
Arthur Schwartz   Composer
Carl Sigman   Composer
Harry Warren   Composer
Stevie Wonder   Composer
Carl Fischer   Composer
Pat Barry   Art Direction
Richard A. Whiting   Composer
Robert Mellin   Composer
Guy Wood   Composer
Friedrich Rückert   Text
Gerhard Winkler   Composer
Walter Bullock   Composer,Lyricist
Dora Vasconcellos   Composer,Text
Fred Rauch   Composer
Bill W. Carey   Lyricist
Sylvia Rose Moy   Lyricist
Pierre Corneille   Text
J. Francis Burke   Composer

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