Yes, Renée Fleming sings Cabaret, too - Give it a Chance!
May 24, 2005
The first reaction to an album such as this HAUNTED HEART venture by the current Diva of the opera and recital stage Renée Fleming is one of pessimism: why do opera singers feel the need to enter the pops field? Well, remember Helen Traubel? While she was the reigning Wagnerian soprano at the Met she visited clubs and sang popular music and suffered the wrath of Rudolf Bing! So why, we ask, is Renée Fleming taking this same risk?
Well, in the case of this recording and with the wholly professional backing of pianist Fred Hersch and Guitarist Bill Frisell, Fleming not only pulls it off, she adds another dimension to her already startling career. Just when the listening world was adjusting to the addition of Handel to her repertoire, along comes jazz and just as with her other ventures she is able to coax her voice into a different range and behavior.
While not every track on this album is successful ('When did you leave heaven?' and 'Answer me' are a bit over-mannered), there are some truly beautiful pieces here. Fleming uses her chesty lower range to limit her renderings to the low projection, up close to the mike style. It works. There are those who would quibble about the inclusion of such classics as Mahler's 'Liebst du um Schönheit', Ginastera's 'Canção do Amor' and Emile Paladilhe's 'Psyché', works which Fleming seems to be reassuring her audience than she truly is a soprano, but get past the prejudices and settle in to enjoy the fact that she has a lot of courage in making this album.
Doubtless this HAUNTED HEART will polarize her fans, but if this particular 'recital' is approached for what Fleming means it to be, it is more of an homage to ALL music rather than a 'stepping out'. Grady Harp, May 05
Like other reviewers here, I had my reservations about this album. Time and again, opera singers have tried adapting their voices to other styles, and most crash and burn horribly; but Renee Fleming's 2005 album 'Haunted Heart' is the exception to the rule. Here, Ms Fleming lays her soul bare, sharing a style of lyrical jazz that she is effortlessly suited to. Her voice seems to float through and inhabit these songs. In the liner notes to the album, Fleming says that this … more
Grady Harp is a champion of Representational Art in the roles of curator, lecturer, panelist, writer of art essays, poetry, critical reviews of literature, art and music, and as a gallerist. He has presented … more
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While countless fans flock to see soprano Renee Fleming's performances of the Countess inThe Marriage of Figarobecause she's got the voice and the dramatic ability to handle such meaty roles, the versatile singer throws her fans a curveball onHaunted Heart, singing popular standards and ballads as well as a few altered classical pieces. In her liner notes, Fleming calls this album a "look back at the road not taken" -- she played a weekly gig in a jazz club while in school. Nonetheless, her feel for the material here is undeniable. Interestingly, she drops her voice a full octave from her usual tessitura, and the change reveals a robust gospel-oriented approach filled with dramatic breaths and moans. The lyrical Fred Hersch (piano) and the idiosyncratic Bill Frisell (guitar) provide support, and both are adventurous jazz players who create subtle and uniquely haunting backdrops. It adds up to an interesting cross-section of ideas well carried off by the generous talents of all involved. --Tad Hendrickson