Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Renée Fleming: Diva goes to the dark side

Here's an outstanding interview with Renée Fleming, from The Guardian, about Renée's unusual new CD called Dark Hope, due out in June. Renée is covering several indie rock songs, including tracks originally done by The Arcade Fire, Death Cab for Cutie, and Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah." But the album is not what you might think -- this could be one of the most interesting releases of the year, and not just for us classical fans.

First off, I love this quote:

The artifice of operatic expression amuses and sometimes embarrasses her. "It's a kind of controlled screaming. Basically we holler – in an extremely cultivated way, of course!"

Also this comment, sure to be argued over (the writer’s comment, not necessarily Renée):

…comparing Fleming's covers with the originals, I can't help feeling that she has a musical finesse and an emotional authority to which those whiny juveniles could hardly aspire. Welsh singer Duffy gargles her scales in "Stepping Stone" while Fleming skips up the ladder with exhilarating exactitude. Songs about being crossed in love sound petulant and self-pitying when delivered by teenagers; the same words are given gravity by Fleming, who without resorting to operatic exaggeration can suggest adult disillusionment and heartbreak. "Well," she said, "what I have to contribute is life-experience, not all of it good!" She meant her divorce, and the equally painful realisation that her career makes any other permanent relationship unlikely: few men are willing to dwindle into a consort, smiling from the sidelines as the diva is mobbed by worshippers.

I think "whiny juveniles" is a bit much; thank goodness that's not Renée's attitude.

Renée Fleming hasn't abandoned opera by any means -- she's getting ready to do Rossini's Armida in May at the Met:

Characteristically, Fleming views Armida as a victim, demonised by male fears. "Sure, she manipulates men. I love it when she simpers, 'OK, now I'm just gonna go die', all in order to get her way. But it's kind of tragic: feminine wiles are all she has. She's traded back and forth, and she has to rely on the tricks that we still go on using today. She's almost a caricature of what a woman is – or what society demands that a woman should be."

I can't wait for the CD or the Rossini! And you know where I'll be come October 9!


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