Renée Fleming - I Want Magic
Coming so soon after Dawn Upshaw’s recital of American opera arias (Nonesuch, 9/98), and Barbara Bonney’s, Jennifer Larmore’s and Thomas Hampson’s solo song collections (Decca, 2/98, Teldec, 12/97 and EMI, 10/97), this survey of operas old and new reinforces the feeling that the current generation of star singers in the USA is making an effort to explore home-grown repertory.
Fleming’s voice is sumptuous, her lower register especially sounds so warmly resonant that I found myself thinking of Leontyne Price in her glory days. (Three of these arias were recorded by Price, two from Porgy and Bess and the great scene from Vanessa.) Fleming shows herself equal to every mood; only at the end of “Glitter and be gay” is there a false moment when she rather overdoes the brittle laughter. What beautiful tunes there are here, including the waltz song from The Medium and “Ain’t it a pretty night” from Susannah – the only item that is duplicated in the Upshaw selection. To make a comparison in general, one has to say that Upshaw’s voice suggests Mozart’s Susanna, whereas Fleming is a born Countess.
By the time this review appears, Renee Fleming will have taken part in the world premiere of Andre Previn’s A Streetcar Named Desire in San Francisco and her programme ends with a sneak preview of that. “I want magic!” is Blanche’s philosophy of life, justifying her constant flights of fancy; if Previn and his librettist, Philip Littell, pull off the challenge of adapting this play for opera, the last years of the twentieth century will have a new demented prima donna role.
Among the other items, Fleming makes the extract from Wuthering Heights sound positively Mahleresque, and Anne’s great aria from