COMPOSERS: Bizet,Catalani,Cilea,Gounod,Leoncavallo,Massenet,Puccini,Verdi & Bellini
ALBUM TITLE: Collection: Renée Fleming
PERFORMER: Renée Fleming (soprano); London Voices, LPO/Charles Mackerras
CATALOGUE NO: 467 049-2
You know you’ve attained true stardom when only your name and a sultry portrait appear on a CD cover: no composers, no works, not even reference to the style of repertoire, let alone a conductor or orchestra. And it’s especially odd (not to say insulting) when it’s Charles Mackerras and the LPO on such compelling and exhilarating form.
But Fleming is a star of sufficient magnitude to carry off this kind of spotlit treatment, and a great enough singer to take on a programme of very well-known and therefore hyper-exposing arias – four by Puccini; a chunk from Carmen; selections made famous by films: ‘Casta diva’ from Norma (and Louis Malle’s Atlantic City), ‘Ebben?… Ne andrò lontana’ from Catalani’s La Wally (and Jean-Jacques Beineix’s Diva) – and make them sound both meaningful and fresh.
Hers is a fabulous voice, velvety and voluptuous, and the way she sculpts and floats phrases can only be marvelled at. Her coloratura is effortlessly agile and aerated in ‘Merci jeunes amies’, the showstopper from Verdi’s Les vèpres siciliennes (her French too is flawless). But the real highlight is the inspired juxtaposition of her glorious, swooning ‘Ah! Je veux vivre’ from Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette with the similarly enchanted and impassioned, but darkly ominous and agitated ‘Come in quest’ora bruna’ from Simon Boccanegra.