RENÉE FLEMING Operatic Arias:
"O mio babbino caro" from Gianni Schicchi); "Un bel dý vedremo" from
Madama Butterfly; "Quando me n'vó" from La Boh╦me and
"Signore, ascolta!" from Turandot (Puccini);" Stridono
from I Pagliacci (Leoncavallo); "Io son
l'umile ancella" from Adriana Lecouvreur (Cilea); "Ebben?...Ne
lontana" from La Wally (Catalani); "Je suis encor tout
petite table" from Manon (Massenet); "Je dis que rien ne m'╚pouvante" from
Carmen (Bizet); "Ah! Je veux vivre" from Rom╚o et Juliette
(Gounod); "Come in quest'ora
bruna" from Simon Boccanegra (Verdi); "Casta diva" from Norma
(Bellini); "Merci, jeunes amies" from Les V═spres siciliennes (Verdi)
Overall this is another fine CD for the winsome American diva although it is not a total success. This CD features standard repertory all performed with consistent beauty of sound and, more important, characterization. Her "O mio babbino caro" is one of the loveliest ever recorded, and any production of Turandot would be delighted to experience her Liu, with its pure, extended high notes. Unusual passion and commitment can also be heard in the arias from Adriana Lecouvreur and La Wally. She is totally at ease in the French arias, and shows her considerable agility in the "Bolero" from Verdi's Sicilian Vespers, although this is taken too slowly to be effective (her choice or Mackerras's?). However, Norma is not a role for her. This "Casta Diva", although sung with beautiful sounds, lacks the power, intensity and control this role demands.
Mackerras provides sensitive accompaniments. Another plus is engineering that perfectly captures the performances without undue prominence of the soloist. If only Fleming's RCA recording of Four Last Songs of Strauss had this natural balance and perspective!
Packaging is rather odd, one of those strange three-panel fold-outs with the CD on the right side, many glamour photos of Fleming, and a 24-page booklet slipped into the center pocket. This contains texts and more than complete information about the sessions including names of French and Italian language coaches -- plus the listing of Gerald Moore as "vocal coach." One wonders just what he did at these sessions.
A fine CD, sure to delight Ms. Fleming's countless fans.
R.E.B. (October 2000)