This is another
of those CDs made primarily for commercial rather than artistic
reasons, and no doubt is going to make the artist and her record
company rub their hands with glee. As always with Decca production
values are high and no doubt this will be bought in large quantities
to be given out as Christmas presents to family members and
friends over the festive season. Whether this disc will delight
the many fans of this popular singer is not so certain. This
is not a disc of Renee Fleming as you know her. So far, her
releases have either been of complete operas or collections
of arias from parts of her repertoire. We have been told that
opera recordings are now a thing of the past, so I sincerely
hope that various opera singers will all be jumping upon the
bandwagon to produce discs similar to this one.
There is nothing
inherently wrong with this kind of release, and, as the booklet
tells us, this is repertoire that Fleming used to sing when
she was a young girl. So far, so good. What I have found totally
perplexing is how Fleming’s singing style has changed for this
disc, which starts me thinking that maybe commercial pressures
are more important than the singer’s love of the repertoire.
After all, if, as we are told, the soprano had great difficulty
in deciding what pieces to choose, why are we left with under
an hour’s music. Surely, more could have been found to fill
it out, particularly when she loves the repertoire, and there
was far too much to choose from. Sounds a little fishy to me.
Apart from much
swooping and swooning which I find totally disfiguring, Fleming’s
glorious voice is in good shape, and at least all of the items
chosen are fairly serious. There is much less “crossover” in
this issue than other similarly created collections.
We are told that
Fleming and the conductor (Andreas Delfs) were at the Aspen
Summer Music Festival in Colorado together and so this recording
is a kind of reunion for the two of them. Based upon the evidence,
Delfs makes a reasonable job of the accompaniments but by no
means could he be thought of as being stretched by the pieces
chosen. Similarly, the Royal Philharmonic gets through the “songs”
without mishap. Susan Graham, on loan from Warner, joins Renee
Fleming for a lovely rendering of the Berlioz, and I suppose
that we will next be hearing a similar issue from Graham with
help from Renee Fleming!
London Voices also
help out on four of the items, and their contribution is also
very professional and supports the soloist very well.
As we are currently
in a mini renaissance of opera singers, albeit most of whom
unfortunately need amplification to sound anything else but
strained when singing on the operatic stage, is it predictable
that we are going to have to witness more issues like this,
rather than the fare which the artists would I am sure rather
record? No doubt Renee Fleming will be long remembered for releases
like Rusalka and the Strauss operas, rather than this
disc but she will probably make more money out of this one.
A very enjoyable
disc within reason, provided you like the repertoire.