Bel Cantoby Renée Fleming
Renée Fleming's stylistic range is extensive, encompassing contemporary American works; great operatic roles by Handel, Mozart, Verdi, and Richard Strauss; and songs by composers as distinct as Schubert, Fauré, and Rachmaninoff. Yet she is also a persuasive advocate of the early-19th-century bel canto operas, though this aspect of her career has not been well represented on disc. Here, at last, is a program of scenes from the heart of the bel canto repertoire -- the operas of Rossini, Bellini, and Donizetti -- and the wait has been worth it. The creamy richness of Fleming's voice and the restrained passion of her interpretive approach is ideally suited to this music, and if her singing is not entirely free from some modern, post-verismo mannerisms (like occasionally aspirating the ends of phrases), her performances are exceptionally graceful, agile, and expressive. Fleming's ornamentation -- developed with the assistance of bel canto scholar Philip Gosset -- is also admirable and often breathtaking. Most of these selections will be familiar to aficionados, but those who are unfamiliar with this branch of the repertoire will find this album a tantalizing introduction to a surprisingly large and important body of work. Conductor Patrick Summers follows Fleming's every flourish with assurance, and the Orchestra of St. Luke's playing is nicely polished and full of color. Bel canto literally means "beautiful singing," and that is exactly what Fleming offers on this generous, 72-minute recital.
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- La sonnambula, opera: Scene and final aria, Act 2. Ah!...se una volta so
- La sonnambula, opera: Scene and final aria, Act 2. Ah! non credea mirart
- La sonnambula, opera: Scene and final aria, Act 2. Ah! non giunge uman p
- Maria Padilla, opera: Scene and cavatina, Act 1. Abbracciami
- Maria Padilla, opera: Scene and cavatina, Act 1. Il più tenero suon d'ar
- Maria Padilla, opera: Scene and cavatina, Act 1. Ah! non sai qual presti
- Semiramide, opera: Cavatina, Act 1. Introduction
- Semiramide, opera: Cavatina, Act 1. Bel raggio lusinghier
- Semiramide, opera: Cavatina, Act 1. Dolce pensiero di quell'istante
- Il Pirata, opera: Scene and aria, Act 2. Introduction
- Il Pirata, opera: Scene and aria, Act 2. Ah! s'io potessi dissipar l
- Il Pirata, opera: Scene and aria, Act 2. Col sorriso d'innocenza
- Il Pirata, opera: Scene and aria, Act 2. Oh sole! ti vela di tenebre
- Armida, opera: Finale, Act 2. D'Amor al dolce impero
- Armida, opera: Finale, Act 2. Gli augei tra fronde e fronde
- Armida, opera: Finale, Act 2. La fresca età sen fugge
- Armida, opera: Finale, Act 2. Ah! sì, godete amanti
- Lucrezia Borgia, opera: Final rondo, Act 3. M'odi, ah m'odi, io non t'impl
- Lucrezia Borgia, opera: Final rondo, Act 3. Figlio!...figlio!...Olà, qualc
- Lucrezia Borgia, opera: Final rondo, Act 3. Era desso il figlio mio
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Ms Fleming has a wonderful voice and is never overwhelmed, but the sound quality is so poor on this disc. To hear the voice, one must turn the volume up, but when the music kicks in, you will scramble for the remote to turn it down. Very sad that a singer of such magnitude has a bad disc to her name due to poor production.
As predicted Fleming has now started to investigate the Bel Canto music of such composers as Donizetti and Bellini. Her first recording was indeed of a Donizetti opera for Opera Rara and was very well sung. But it must be noted that the role was low and that was several years ago and it was not Bellini or Rossini. The disc exposes Fleming's inability to meter and wieght the italian with her very Czech voice which was supposed to be living in the Straussian and Russian/German repetiore. One thinks of her perfect Rusalka in this point. This recording is sad because she does not have the technical command size nor the tone for these arias. Her voice is now famously mannered with blue notes and hootchy scratchings all over the place. Whilst this rendering desperately tries to reign in the reigning divas habits and ways it just about goes bust on the Sonnambula. Unfortunately like fello U.S soprano Cheryl Studer, La Fleming is just not a Italian singer rather an American "szmorgasbord" soprano better suited to the German Fach which was designed to thrill with what is a truly luscious voice. Instead we long for a less commercial rendering devoid of any real style. And furthermore the aspirations of her "Jazz" career that she had first dreamed as a young student has really turned into a crossover nightmare with the way she swings scoops and plops through these archaic pieces.Commerically this will sell and unfortunately when you listen to the other sopranos who have essayed these role (on stage I might add) Caballe, Callas, Sutherland, Scotto, and Sills you will realize that Bel Canto is not about the divas rather the feelings they sing. They all understood it.Fleming uses it as a "listen to my pretty voice do this and that" style . Style is a word she has simply misunderstood.
Renee Fleming continues to demonstrate the strength and range of her talent in this, her most recent CD. Her rich, full voice is of extraordinary beauty....she truly does justice to Bel Canto. The technical demands of this style of singing are enormous, yet she demonstrates her prowess with apparent ease. Whether she sings German lieder, French art songs(I love what she does with Faure.), Bel Canto or other genres, it is transparently clear why she is considered to be one of the absolute best today. Enjoy!!!
Generally a good CD, but the sameness of the songs gets a bit tiring after about the fourth cut. The blame is not necessarily on Ms. Fleming; rather, it's on the producer who does little to vary the pace or to educate listeners about the full range of bel canto.
This CD is incredible, this is the best work that Renée has ever done, making me want to listen to her more and more. To be honest, I did not expect Renée to do that great of a job on this CD, because, well, I usually like her better in the Mozart roles, and I still think that Renée would make the most amazing Pamina (Magic Flute) but this CD opens up many more doors, role wise, as far as her opera career goes. It proves to me, and other fans, that Renée can do more then just the heavy roles of Mozart. The best tracks on this CD are the ones from composers such as Donizetti, Rossini, most of the Bellini tracks, just avoid tracks 1-3, the arias are not for her voice. On a happier note, she has improved so much--her high notes don't sound as if she is singing in a falsetto range, showing her range has expanded, and her coloratura has gotten so much better, her trills are real trills, none of that fake stuff most singers try to get away with, her range is much better, it used to be that any higher than a high C and it would sound shrill, but now, I look forward to hearing an aria where she hits a high Eb. Her vocal control has also improved a great deal, she doesn't swoop and slide as much as she once did, like she did on her self titled "Renée Fleming" CD. Judging from the track "Ah! Non sai qual prestigio si cela", (Donizetti)Renée would make an amazing Norina in "Don Pasquale." Her Rossini tracks are great as well, the "Bel raggio lusinghier" makes me think that Renée will make a pretty good Rossina in "Barber of Seville" one of these days. The other good stand out recordings where the "Il pirata" tracks, and she is singing the leading soprano role in that at the Met this season (2002-2003) and I think that it will fit her quite well. If you used to not like Renée because of that swooping and sliding stuff that she once did, then buy this, because, none of that stuff is on here. Renée's technique, and control are much better, except for that high note in track nine...(other than the high note the aria is superb) has she ever heard of transposing or not?? (Maybe she does not believe in transposing, but then again I have no room to talk because I don't either.) On the other hand, I would avoid the "La sonnambula" tracks because they just do not fit her voice. They are for a bigger voice, like Callas or Sutherland. It kind of reminds me of Renée's "Casta Diva" which, I did not like, that is for a bigger voice. Thank god she did not try to record it again! You really must get this CD. Renée has improved so much since the last CD she recorded, and it shows what she can do, and not what she thinks she can do or would like to do. (Like the "Casta Diva" on an older CD, which was just NOT for her voice.) Buy this CD, and enjoy listening to the bel canto repertoire the way it should be sung. Bel canto comes from the italian, meaning "beautiful singing," and that describes this CD perfectly, it really is "Bel Canto", or "Beautiful Singing."