RECORDING OF THE MONTH
An evening with Renée Fleming.
Renée Fleming (soprano)
Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra/Ion Marin
rec. live, Waldbühne Arena, Berlin, 27 June 2010
Region Code 0. Format NTSC 16:9. Sound, PCM Stereo, Dolby Digital 5.1. DTS 5.1
Tracklist at end of review
EUROARTS DVD 2058078 [125:00]
Originally designed for the infamous 1936 Olympics, the Waldbühne arena in Berlin is built into the Murellen Gorge and steeply raked seats were cut into the rock-face. With the less formal seated on the grass in front of the bandstand there are over twenty two thousand spectators at these concerts. The use of the arena for concerts was discovered by the pop world and now often involves famous opera singers with the likes of Domingo, Pavarotti and Villazon appearing. The venue has come to mark the end of season festivities of the Berlin Philharmonic.
For this end of season concert the conductor was the Romanian-born Ion Marin, now a naturalised Austrian, whilst the guest artist was the American lyric soprano Renée Fleming. Looking stunningly glamorous and seemingly ageless in her series of couture gowns by Angel Sanchez, the fifty-year-old diva did not stint on her contribution in either timing, quality of singing or interpretive insight. Following Marin’s brisk reading of Mussorgsky’s Night on a Bare Mountain (CH 2) Fleming started with her signature Song to the Moon from Dvořák’s water sprite opera, Rusalka (CH 3). Her smooth legato followed the immaculate harp and woodwind introduction as Marin drew soft gentle phrases from the orchestra. Fleming was as secure as ever as was the power of the voice at the conclusion. There’s no sign of spread or beat. This speaks of an artist who has cared for her instrument and what she has asked of it since her professional debut way back in 1986.
If the Dvořák aria gave one of many titles to this concert, Miss Fleming’s varied programme matched that of the orchestra who were in top form; are they ever anything else? Marin’s choice of repertoire ranging, among others, across Wagner, Elgar and Tchaikovsky. The coverage was as eclectic as that of his singer. Renée Fleming took on the long scene from Richard Strauss’ Capriccio (CH 5) where, after the dramatic start, her singing in tonal beauty, strength and characterisation showed just why certain of the composer’s works are favourites of hers. In this she follows her illustrious predecessor, Kiri Te Kanawa, whose vocal type, strengths and longevity of tonal lustre she mirrors. The difference with Korngold’s Glùck, das mir verbieb from his iconoclastic Die tote Stadt was as interesting as it was arresting (CH 7). But for me a most interesting aria was Donde lieta uscì from Puccini’s La Bohème. Mimi is a role she first sang in 1989 for her debut at New York’s City Opera. Whilst she has undertaken Puccini’s consumptive fairly regularly in recent years I have not noticed Mimi featured. A pity, as like the older Mirella Freni she brings many an insight to Mimi’s plight in that heart-rending aria (CH 10). It was an inspiration of casting to include the two extracts from Leoncavallo’s opera of the same name (CHs 11-12). Needless to say, Miss Fleming brought real feeling to Liu’s plea to the emotionally glacial Princess Turandot in Tu che di gel sei cinta (CH 13) from Puccini’s last opera. Her final contribution to a great evening was a gentle and heartfelt rending of the same composer’s ever-popular O mio babbino caro (CH 16) from Gianni Schicchi.
Renée Fleming was the visiting star, but she did not overshadow the home orchestra whose Romeo and Juliet (CH 14) was their answer to her Capriccio extract which they had accompanied with such taste. The camera-work between soloist, members of the orchestra in lounge suits and the rapt audience in various parts of the arena was first rate. With singer and orchestra on top form this night, when the weather behaved immaculately and followed Germany beating England in the football World Cup earlier in the day, was as appropriate a celebration as any in the audience could have wished for. Congratulations to Euroarts for bringing the concert out on DVD so soon after the event. It should feature in many a Christmas stocking.
Robert J Farr
In excellent vocal form, in a stunning visual and acoustic location, Renée Fleming enthusiasts, as well as opera lovers in general, should not hesitate.
Modest MUSSORGSKY (1839-1881) Night on a Bare Mountain [10.33]
Antonín DVO Ř ÁK (1841-1904) Rusalka, Mesicku na nebi hlubokém (Song to the Moon) [7.43]
Aram CHATSCHATURJAN (1903-1978) Spartacus, Spartacus and Phrygia [11.40]
Richard STRAUSS (1864-1949) Capriccio, Morgen Mittag um elf! [19.59]; Zueignung, op. 10 no.1
Richard WAGNER (1813-1883) Rienzi, Overture [12.55]
Erich Wolfgang KORNGOLD (1897-1957) Die tote Stadt, Glùck, das mir verbiieb [6.29]
Edward ELGAR (1857-1934) Salut d'amour, op 12 [5.30]
Giacomo PUCCINI (1858-1924) La Bohème, Donde lieta uscì [4.00]; Turandot, Tu che di gel sei cinta [4.43]; Gianni Schicchi, O mio babbino caro [3.38]
Ruggero LEONCAVALLO (1858-1919) La Bohème, Musette svaria sulla bocca viva [2.17] Mimi Pinson, la biondinetta [2.37]
Piotr Ilyich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893) Romeo and Juliet, [22.09]
Gregorias DINICU (1889-1948) Hora staccato [no timing given]
Paul LINCKE (1866-1946) BerlinerLuft [no timing given]