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La Scena Musicale - Vol. 3, No. 1 September 1997

Renée Fleming in Recital
Helen Yorke, piano

by Philip Anson

Renée Fleming gave her only east coast recital this summer on July 24 at Tanglewood's Seiji Ozawa Hall. The program included three Schubert lieder found on Fleming's recent Schubert disc, and songs by Rachmaninov, Debussy, Barber, and Richard Strauss. I am a great fan of Ms. Fleming's singing. Her opera work is absolutely mesmerizing, especially when she finds a role that suits her personality. In recital Fleming can scale her huge, rich voice down to a whimper but there is no disguising the fact that she is still deploying an instrument of formidable power. She can't help turning Schubert's little songs into opera arias, which is just fine, if you are not a lieder purist. Fleming has a wide emotional palette and the beauty of her tone transforms the seconds of silence into palpably precious moments of anticipation. Fleming's encores were the best part: "Will There Really Be a Morning?", Dvorak's "Song to the Moon", Ellington's "It Don't Mean A Thing If It Ain't Got That Swing," and, inevitably, Gershwin's "Summertime". In the appreciative audience was composer André Previn whose A Streetcar Named Desire Fleming will premiere next year in San Francisco.

(c) La Scena Musicale