Customer Review

55 of 66 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Really Dull, September 6, 2005
This review is from: Handel (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. The idea of a small vibrato, or nearly vibratoless sound is also WRONG, and not supported by any of the writings of the day. That is the creation of instrumentalists in the Baroque field who have taken the development of instrumental music and tacked it on vocal music, which was light years ahead of instrumental music in that day (the vibration of the voice is what inspired the use of vibrato in instruments, for it gave a cleaner and more "in tune" sound).

I think all around we would have had performances that were more exciting and more thrilling to experience. Prettiness is fine, but after a while it communcates nothing much.

I rated the recording only a four star, and not because of the orchestra. They are super and the concept of the music, the presentation as conceived by the conductor is wonderfully vibrant. Renee Fleming's voice just doesn't match it (as I said, she shouldn't have held back).

The other problem is her increasing habit of distorting the vowels while singing. She makes words meaningless and stupid by doing so. In "Endless Pleasure" the word "LOVE" is actually sang "LAV", and the vowel changes constantly, not as is often the case because of a vocal cover needed for the passagio, but because of BAD SINGING. As with most of her singing in English, it is sloppy and her diction is very poor. One understood Sutherland better than they understand her. Singing is not vocalizing, it is communicating, and quoting Toscanini when he first heard Callas at the beginning of her career, "What is she singing about, if the words aren't clear nothing has been sung worth hearing." Whether Callas actually ever heard this comment or not, I have no clue, but poor diction is NOT a fault one levels against Callas. She learned at some time that the words are every bit as important as the music, and she respected them completely. That is my complaint with Fleming, including a concert I was at of her singing Strauss's Four Last songs; one understood NOTHING, not one word of what she sang. She is getting worse and worse with her bad diction, and it is being replaced with delicate sweet singing, lovely tone, and dazzling technique, but like Toscanini said, "nothing worth hearing has been sung."

With the great talent Renee Fleming has, and she has been blessed abundantly with talent (more than most ever dream of), it is high time she cleaned up these bad habits that are creeping into her singing. Let us hear your words! Let us understand them! Let us feel something in our hearts because of them! Let us weep inside because we understand the message and the beauty of the voice reflects that message to us and shares it with our hearts. STOP just singing like you are vocalizing.

Other than this complaint, the set is beautifully sung, lifeless in many ways, but beautifully sung. Te Kanawa sings "Let the Bright Seraphin" a billion times better (even Sutherland outshone Fleming by light years, and her diction was sketchy at best); Beverly Sills did the Juilius Caesar arias (especially Da Tempesta) with excitement and with energy, a thing Fleming could learn from. Many of these arias are far better sung by other singers than they are here. Those performances seemed to radiate commitment to the music and the meaning of the words, this recording, sadly, does neither. It is pretty to the extreme, very wonderfully lovely, gentle on the ear, great as elevator music or something you listen to while doing the housework. Nothing about this performance commands your attention and makes you stand up and take notice. Despite the beauty and the finess of the singing, we are left waiting for some reason to listen to it, nothing grabs us and makes us pay attention to what we are hearing.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No

[Add comment]
Post a comment
To insert a product link use the format: [[ASIN:ASIN product-title]] (What's this?)
Amazon will display this name with all your submissions, including reviews and discussion posts. (Learn more)
Name:
Badge:
This badge will be assigned to you and will appear along with your name.
There was an error. Please try again.
Please see the full guidelines here.

Official Comment

As a representative of this product you can post one Official Comment on this review. It will appear immediately below the review wherever it is displayed.   Learn more
The following name and badge will be shown with this comment:
 (edit name)
After clicking the Post button you will be asked to create your public name, which will be shown with all your contributions.

Is this your product?

If you are the author, artist, manufacturer or an official representative of this product, you can post an Official Comment on this review. It will appear immediately below the review wherever it is displayed.  Learn more
Otherwise, you can still post a regular comment on this review.

Is this your product?

If you are the author, artist, manufacturer or an official representative of this product, you can post an Official Comment on this review. It will appear immediately below the review wherever it is displayed.   Learn more
 
System timed out

We were unable to verify whether you represent the product. Please try again later, or retry now. Otherwise you can post a regular comment.

Since you previously posted an Official Comment, this comment will appear in the comment section below. You also have the option to edit your Official Comment.   Learn more
The maximum number of Official Comments have been posted. This comment will appear in the comment section below.   Learn more
Prompts for sign-in
 

Comments


Sort: Oldest first | Newest first
Showing 1-1 of 1 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Sep 3, 2012 10:57:33 AM PDT
Neil says:
> ... bad diction... is being replaced with delicate sweet singing, lovely tone, and dazzling technique

I'll buy a copy of that.
‹ Previous 1 Next ›

Review Details