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41 customer reviews

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Audio CD, September 14, 2004
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Two-time Grammyr Award winner Ren‚e Fleming ventures with supreme artistry into the virtuosic realm of Baroque repertoire. Handel is filled with arias from opera & oratorio that showcase the strength & suppleness of Fleming's voice as well as the depth of her musical gifts. This new recording features repertoire in Italian & in English including selections from Rodelinda. The conductor for the album is English baroque specialist Harry Bicket. The album was recorded with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, which recently toured US with Cecilia Bartoli.

Those who may have feared that Renée Fleming might approach Handel with a too-Romantic vocal attitude need not have; whether it's the leadership of the sympathetic, historically informed Harry Bicket, the sound of the spare but warm Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, plain good sense and musicianship, or any combination of these, here she offers sixteen arias in almost-impeccable Baroque fashion. I doubt whether sopranos of Handel's age had voices as plush as Ms Fleming's but she manages to keep her tone as light and as airy as possible in these selections, never leaning or swooping into an accompanying note in an "un-Baroque" manner, and the result is simply ravishing. The voice, of course, is almost unbelievably beautiful and agile, the technique impeccable, complete with a trill unmatchable in any soprano singing today. From the long-breathed lines of "O sleep why dost thou leave me" from Semele to the fireworks in Cleopatra's "Da tempeste…," with stops along the way at the famous "Ombra mai fu" and a complete rarity from the composer's Lotario, this CD is just breathtaking. Brava Fleming--and bravo Harry Bicket! Oh, yes--bravo Handel! --Robert Levine

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1. Oh Sleep, Why Dost Thou Leave Me?
2. Endless Pleasure
3. Scoglio D'Immota Fronte
4. Quando Spieghi I Tuoi Tormenti
5. Ombra Mai Fu
6. To Fleeting Pleasures Make Your Court
7. Lascia Ch'io Pianga
8. Dunque, I Lacci D'un Volto...Ah! Crudel
9. Let The Bright Seraphim
10. V'adoro, Pupille
11. Da Tempeste Il Legno Infranto
12. Ritorna, Oh Caro E Dolce Mio Tesoro
13. Sommo Rettor Del Cielo...D'una Torbida Sorgente
14. Pensieri, Voi Mi Tormentate
15. Bel Piacere E Godera Fido Amor!
16. Calm Thou Soul...Convey Me To Some Peaceful Shore

Product Details

  • Performer: Renee Fleming, Harry Bicket, Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, George Friedrich Handel
  • Audio CD (September 14, 2004)
  • SPARS Code: DDD
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Decca
  • ASIN: B0002SZVV8
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (41 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #82,771 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

21 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Don G. Evans on January 22, 2005
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Unlike many others, I am not particularly crazy about Fleming's vocal quality, but that may be because almost all of these pieces are very familiar to me, "imprinted" on my brain by other singers, which perhaps makes it hard to hear them sung differently. The selection of arias is an encyclopedia of Handel's writings for soprano (male and female), and includes only a few justly famous warhorses, the rest being less often performed gems. I found myself especially warming to "D'una torbida" from Lotario, a piece I have not heard before, so Fleming's performance of that will probably imprint on me. Her "Ritorna, o caro" from the more familiar Rodelinda is absolutely ravishing. Few who love fine singing and want to hear more of Handel's diverse art would be disappointed with this disc. Highly recommended.
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27 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Ed Uyeshima HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on September 15, 2004
Format: Audio CD
This recording is an absolute stunner from premiere soprano Renée Fleming. Once again proving her vocal versatility, she tackles a selection of Handel's arias, both familiar and relatively unknown. Her taste, as it turns out, is unerring. Amazingly, her foray into the Baroque world is quite recent with her first and only professional exposure to Handel in the 1999 Paris Opera and Lyric Chicago productions of his "Alcina", but you certainly can't tell from the passionate, character-driven singing she exhibits here. As usual, her voice is full and rounded with a legato that is thrilling. The program is a nearly perfect showcase for her immense talent underlined by her amazing coloratura, easily one of the best today.

Fleming opens sonorously with two arias from "Semele", "Oh sleep, why dost thou leave me?" and "Endless pleasure", equally beautiful as she begs the god Jupiter for immortality in the title role. In immediate contrast, Fleming shows her intense dramatic flair with "Scoglio d'immota fronte" from "Scipione" playing the fiery Spanish princess Berenice. In a gender reversal, she takes on the castrati role of "Serse" with the classic "Ombra mai fù", where she believably and touchingly deepens her voice to fit the male character. Although I prefer countertenor David Daniels' more animated version for sheer virtuosity, Fleming acquits herself well. Back on firmer ground, she credibly handles the two primary female roles in "Rinaldo": the hero's unsullied love, Almirena and the temptress, Armida. Her versatility is on full display in her two arias from this opera.
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55 of 66 people found the following review helpful By BDSinC on September 6, 2005
Format: Audio CD
I love Renee Fleming's singing and her voice, but lately she is becoming a "vocalizer" and not a singer. Her words are lost in the sound, her vowels are distorted, and even though the sound is lovely as always, this ruins what the singing is all about. Firstly, I care less if she sings quietly or loudly, for this idea of Baroque singing being gentle and light is silly, not to mention not supported by any of the writings of the day (were not the castrati noted for voices so full and vibrant nothing could compete with them?). Even the great Catalani was said to have sang so loudly that Spontini when asked if he would attend her concert stated he could well hear her from where he lived (about 40 miles away from where the concert was given), and the writers of the day stated that one was want to put cotton in their ears because her voice was so powerful. Marchesi was noted for his "bomba" where he could sing a scale (even a scale trillant) and end on a super loud full incredible note at the top of the scale and the top of his lungs. No singer, saving the creator of Orfeo for Gluck was noted for singing in some delicate manner with subdued volume (and in this case it was because he was seen as a fourth rate singer at best). Why we persist on thinking Baroque music must be sung in this sweet half voiced sound is beyond me. It is just not supported by the facts of the day. Perhaps their voices were smaller than what we are accustomed to hearing, but they were full and penetrating for their day, not caressing and gentle whispers.

This said, I think Renee would have done better to just sing out in the way she sings for normal singing. Let her voice go, let the fullness and vibrancy of her sound carry.
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22 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Musdirlynn on September 16, 2004
Format: Audio CD
Renée Fleming and Handel- some would scoff at the idea. Those nay-sayers obviously were not privileged to hear Ms. Fleming's stupendous performances of Alcina at either the Paris Opéra or the Lyric Opera of Chicago. Ms. Fleming sings Handel the way it should be sung, with abandon, with all the colors in her extremely varied tonal palette, with great attention to text, and, perhaps most importantly, with exquisitely wrought ornamentation. I therefore knew what to expect of this disc of Handel arias.

As expected, Ms. Fleming's vocalism is impeccable. Her voice is clear and clean, without a hint of manner or artifice. She approaches the texts with great care, often varying the delivery substantially from one "A" section to its repeat. The arias are a nice mixture of favorites and rather more obscure gems. Her performances of "Lascia ch'io pianga," "Let The Bright Seraphim" and "V'adoro Pupille" are as fine as any on disc. They are as expressive and elegantly sung as Arleen Auger's fine disc from the 1980's, (Delos 3026) which was, in this author's opinion, the benchmark recording of these arias- until now. While certainly not replacing the late Ms. Auger's performances, Ms. Fleming's stand right up next to them- every bit the artistic and vocal equal.

One of the truly great things about this recording is the exquisite playing of Harry Bicket's "Orchestra of the Age of the Enlightenment." The playing is ebullient- always supporting the voice while not just remaining in the background. The solo playing is quite fine indeed. Special notice should be given to the continuo team, Alastair Ross, Elizabeth Kenny and Richard Tunnicliffe, whose playing is constantly inventive and always provides just the right amount of support and color for each aria.

This disc is a recording to be treasured and played often.
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