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Renée Fleming - I Want Magic! ~ American Opera Arias CD

4.2 out of 5 stars 33 customer reviews

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Audio CD, CD, September 15, 1998
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Soprano sensation Renee Fleming performs American arias by Bernard Herrmann, Douglas Moore, George Gershwin, Leonard Bernstein, Samuel Barber, Andre Previn and Igor Stravinsky.
Genre: Classical Music
Media Format: Compact Disk
Rating:
Release Date: 15-SEP-1998

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Like Dawn Upshaw's The World So Wide on Nonesuch, this program is such an inviting cross section of American opera of the last 50 years, you wonder why more of it hasn't been recorded. Composers include Carlisle Floyd, Douglas Moore, Samuel Barber, and Gian Carlo Menotti, whose childlike "Monica's Waltz" from the otherwise lurid opera The Medium is a highlight. Old favorites are here, such as Gershwin's "Summertime." And new favorites, too: Andre Previn's forthcoming "A Streetcar Named Desire" graciously offers Straussian lushness and bitonal wind-instrument details suggesting Blanche DuBois's mind departing from reality, all sounding remarkably true to Previn's pre-World War II upbringing in Berlin. This dramatically alert arioso isn't so melodically memorable but makes all necessary dramatic points eloquently. Though she performs vividly throughout, Fleming often lets her vocal tone overwhelm articulation of the words--a middling drawback. And comedy is not her thing: Bernstein's "Glitter and Be Gay" is way too hammy. --David Patrick Stearns
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Product Details

  • Orchestra: Metropolitan Opera Orchestra
  • Conductor: James Levine
  • Composer: George Gershwin, Carlisle Floyd / Igor Stravinsky, Leonard Bernstein, Douglas S. Moore, Bernard Herrmann, et al.
  • Audio CD (September 15, 1998)
  • SPARS Code: DDD
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Format: CD
  • Label: Decca
  • ASIN: B00000AFR4
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #212,843 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Bruce Hodges on April 17, 2002
Format: Audio CD
Renee Fleming's legacy is growing fast. Already we have at least a dozen fine recordings, including her superb Richard Strauss songs, a collection of more well-known opera arias, and her surprisingly moving work in "A Streetcar Named Desire."
This disc may be my favorite, however, mostly because it includes so many marvelous pieces that are not very well known. The opener, from Bernard Herrmann's "Wuthering Heights," is stunning. Why is this not recorded more often? (Granted, Ms. Fleming has now set the performance bar pretty high.) The two arias from Carlisle Floyd's "Susannah" are better known, but receive extra-special treatment here.
James Levine and the Met Orchestra are up to their usual high standard and could not be more sympathetic collaborators, and the sound overall is glorious.
There is not a misstep anywhere in this collection - an outstanding example of a great singer presenting a highly unusual program.
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Format: Audio CD
Renee Fleming is simply astonishing. There is apparently little she can't sing. So much on this disc is so good it's hard to pick out highlights. Nevertheless...
The aria from Wuthering Heights that opens the disc is one I'd never heard before, and it is truly gorgeous music that suits Ms. Fleming's gorgeous voice perfectly.
I was astonished by her performance of "My Man's Gone Now." Generally, I think of Ms. Fleming as suited primarily to "lighter" voiced roles, but her performance of this aria showed beautiful darker colors. An earlier reviewer hit the nail right on the head: while I had always found the sound of Ms. Fleming's voice to be quite similar to Kiri Te Kanawa's (albeit deployed with FAR greater musicianship and intelligence), I found her sounding very much like Leontyne Price on this track.
I thoroughly enjoyed her performances of the arias from The Rake's Progress and Vanessa (oh how the latter opera calls for an up-to-date recording -- and it should feature Ms. Fleming in the title role).
The "title track" is a tasty little teaser that should make anyone want to hear -- or, better yet, see on DVD -- her performance as Blanche du Bois in Andre Previn's operatic Streetcar. Being a tremendous fan of the play and of the movie, I was dubious about this opera, but Ms. Fleming gave an even more moving portrayal of Blanche than did Vivien Leigh.
But what keeps causing me to hit the repeat button on my CD player are the arias from Susannah -- particularly "Ain't It a Pretty Night." The sheer sound of her voice in this aria is amazing. But her interpretation is astounding.
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Format: Audio CD
I love this CD. It's so incredibly American. It features American lyric soprano Renee Fleming singing American opera arias. Ms. Fleming is capably accompanied by the Met orchestra, America's best opera orchestra, conducted by another distinguished American, Maestro James Levine. The only way this CD could be more American is if it were released on July 4th, with two baseball tickets included. I'm grateful that Decca made this release.

This CD starts out very strong with a gorgeous aria "I have dreamt" from "Wuthering Heights". I've never seen this opera nor heard of this opera. If the opera is half as good as the aria, I would love to see it. Renee cruises through "The Letter Song" from "The Ballad of Baby Doe" with heartfelt interpretation. "Monica's Waltz" is not one of my favorite arias in the world, but Ms. Fleming sings it beautifully.

Here's where we depart, and the reason I gave this CD only 4 stars. First, Renee sings two arias from "Porgy and Bess": "Summertime" and "My Man's Gone Now". Renee's voice is way too rich and lush for these arias. Listen to Renee sing it, then listen to the gold standard, Leontyne Price. You'll see what I mean. Renee's rendition of "My Man's Gone Now" was just way too pretty. The score calls for some extended glissandos, which are supposed to be wails of grief. Renee sang the glissandos beautifully, but no grief was in sight. Her next choice "Glitter and Be Gay" from "Candide" is just not a good choice for her. I think even Renee would tell you that a voice like hers is just not right for Cunegonde. This aria (and role) calls for a smaller voice. [...].

Then Renee reminds me of why I love her in the first place, by returning to two arias from "Susannah", a signature role for her.
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Format: Audio CD
This may sound like a backhanded compliment (because it is), but there are times where it sounds as if Rene is doing Rene instead of singing the aria, and it still sounds like art instead of high brow cheese! This woman's voice is phenomenally pretty and expressive, and choosing to make a disc of American arias is not only smart in terms of marketing her voice to unfamiliar audiences outside of the opera world, but important to American opera as a whole.
In the future, I would like to hear more trust of her gift in her singing. Again, there are times, like in the Gershwin PORGY AND BESS arias and the Menotti ("Monica's Waltz"), that it sounds as if she feels the need to make it more dramatic and poigniant than what was actually written, or what would be expected of one of her talent level. Which, considering the genius of both on every turn, leaves a bit of melancholy in your heart upon intuiting it with every turn of phrase that doesn't border on but nonetheless flirts with the schmaltzy (akin to the lament that would come from watching a beautiful, wide-eyed innocent young girl dancer audition for a sleezy, casting couch Vegas manager). But that voice, and the music, make up for it, in an almost paradoxical way.
Worth owning.
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