Monday, January 09, 2006

Eyes on the Prize, Fleming.

The topic of Renee Fleming's general mediocrity is so unconscionably boring and easy, I am practically asleep even mentioning it.

Instead, because I am uncool, I am going to mention something *good* about her.

Yes, that's right Sieglinde. And you heard it here first La Cieca. I am ready to risk being permamently cast out of the oh-so-exclusive classical blogosphere by saying:

Renee was really kinda decent on the Berg Altenberg Lieder.

JSU deigned to acknowledge this as well. I, as others have also mentioned, am not wildly familiar with the Altenberg Lieder. I do not intend, however, to use my lack of knowledge as a reason to avoid the strenuous admission that they were ACTUALLY PERFORMED WELL. By RENEE FLEMING. Seriously, it was without a doubt a bright spot in her otherwise lackluster showing.

Alex and I discussed that RF is able to produce such an assortment of different sounds, yet has trouble commiting to one for very long, ultimately negating a certain fluidity we have come to expect from most of the better singers. Perhaps this was why Tchaikovsky's "Letter Scene" from Eugene Onegin, when audible, seemed to be delivered with the artistry of a middle of the road senior recital. Or why I found myself listening to the notes she was producing in the final scene of Strauss' Capriccio (minus one scene partner), and remembering how beautiful that music is when it is really "sung", performed, refined, etc.

So, what went right on the Berg? I mused yesterday on the topic and used nearly the exact words of our friend JSU. I will quote him, as he is characteristically articulate and succinct on the matter: "I think his inherent trickiness prevents her from getting in her own way".

Bravo, JSU. That is exactly it. This is not to say that Strauss and Tchaikovsky are a walk in the park. Not at all. But these Berg pieces FORCED Ms. Fleming to focus in a way I have never seen/heard from her. I took a lot of delight in the fact that arguably her most musically and vocally challenging selection on the program was the only music she was truly able to deliver. And I really think it is an issue of her being forced into the moment, as it were, in order to be able to hold it together. Consequently we get a more phrased, thoughtful, consistent performance.

Also worth noting, that this was the one non-operatic selection of the three. A topic for later.

And yes bravo, as usual, to Maestro Levine and the Met Orchestra. They're so terrific when all those dang singers stop getting in the way...


Lisa Hirsch said...

I think JSU and you would be exactly correct. Okay, I didn't hear the recital in question, but Fleming's singing almost always strikes me as a series of vocal effects rather than a series of musical phrases. So, yeah, just try to apply "effects" to Berg, and good luck to you.

Alex said...

I suppose I'm being a bit uncharitable about the Berg. If she had sung the entire thing the way she sang that it would have been a far more enjoyable concert indeed. At the same time, I don't consider it much consolation when the material she should have shone in left me so cold.

After hearing Manon, I really couldn't imagine what the nay-sayers had to be sooo upset about and wrote it off as simple playa-hating. Reluctantly, I have to admit there may be something really amiss if a singer capable of such special, scintillating sounds can pull off duds like yesterday's.

The spring Manons will be interesting listening indeed.

Maury D'annato said...

Wait wait I was positive about RF too! Um, ok, I went from lukewarm to lukewarm with some very friendly sentences after an edit, but fer real, on balance I do like Renee Fleming a lot and (to paraphrase Steve Earle gratuitously) I will stand on La Cieca's coffee table and say it! Ok, I probably won't.

Jonathan said...

PS, I also don't want to become the like Beacon of Hope for Renee Fleming.

Sometimes she verily sucks (that one's for you, Maury).

I just want to make sure due credit is given: The Berg was truly great, even if the rest was not....and, 'twas not.