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Haunted Heart

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Album Review

Haunted Heart is one of those albums that could very easily go either way, and as you listen through Fred Hersch's gorgeous piano introduction at the beginning of the title track, which opens the disc, you might find yourself getting a little bit anxious as you wait for the singing to start: how is Renée Fleming, one of the most acclaimed young singers on the opera scene today, going to approach this highly unusual program of jazz standards, lieder, 20th century opera excerpts, country songs, and vintage pop numbers? Is she going to give them the respect they deserve, or toss them off like a slumming diva looking for a quick crossover cash-in? Is she going to treat their texts and melodies with insight and sensitivity, or use them as an easy vehicle for virtuosic display? Then she starts singing, and you simultaneously relax (yes, she's serious about this music) and sit up and take notice (wait a minute, didn't she used to be a soprano?). The fact is, Fleming was a jazz singer before she got serious about Romantic and Baroque opera, and the lessons she learned at the feet of Betty Carter, Sarah Vaughan, Ella Fitzgerald, and Billie Holiday have obviously not left her. She spends most of her time on this album singing about an octave lower than her usual range, and this version of her voice is a revelation — rich, dark, throaty, and powerful. While her classical training is obvious in the ease with which she negotiates and elaborates on the sometimes intricate melodic lines of these songs, her Southern roots are just as conspicuous — just listen to her having her way with the vowels on "When Did You Leave Heaven?," a song on which guitarist Bill Frisell's accompaniment is heart-rendingly perfect. Her collaboration with Hersch on a radical overhaul of the Lennon and McCartney classic "In My Life" leaves the song both nearly unrecognizable and deeply touching, and her straightforward rendition of the Mahler art song "Liebst du Um Schönheit" is a perfect and refreshing changeup in the program. Only once or twice does Fleming threaten to overmanipulate and overpower her material: on a slightly overripe performance of "You've Changed," and on the album's final selection, a sweet and wonderful arrangement of the Stephen Foster song "Hard Times Come Again No More." Here Frisell is at his best, spinning ridiculously lovely variations out of thin air, and Fleming is just the slightest bit heavy-handed, emphatic where a lighter touch might have worked just as well or better. But neither of these songs is anything like a failure, and everything else on Haunted Heart is a delight. Very highly recommended.

Customer Reviews

Haunted Heart

This is a exqusite album and will come as a complete surprise to those who only know Renee Fleming as an operatic diva. Her alto range is the first surprise, and it is smokey and evocative. She remains controlled throughout, but you always sense the power that could explode at any minute from this beautiful voice. To use an analogy from the acting world, you always know that Robert Deniro has this underlying energy that seems to be ready to explode at any minute. This is an extraordinary choice of songs, and if you're a fan of beautiful, understated vocals, in the same genre as Diana Krall, you'll love this album.

A Sonorous Voice & a Beautiful Songbook

Renee Fleming has such a resonant, deep and clear voice that you feel every note and hear every word she sings. Her voice takes you down long and forgotten roads...she brings back the smiles of old lovers and of all things wonderful in this life. River is a wonderful song.....and she sings it as well as it will ever be sung. I played this album in the car the other day and everyone became very quiet and just enjoyed.....thank you Renee for this gift.

An Inspiration!

Renee has done it again. What an amazing instrument and talent. Her huge operatic voice is beyond belief, and now her "jazzy soul" is smoothe and rich. This album has created a new standard for every artist out there. She has inspired me, and I know she has inspired many others. BEAUTIFUL!


Born: February 14, 1959 in Indiana, PA

Genre: Classical

Years Active: '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

Soprano Renée Fleming was born February 14, 1959 in Indiana, PA and raised in Rochester, NY; while at the State University of New York (SUNY) at Potsdam, she studied voice under Patricia Misslin, and after completing her graduate studies at Rochester's Eastman School of Music she attended the Juilliard School's American Opera Center from 1983 to 1987 under the tutelage of Beverly Johnson. Fleming made her professional debut in 1986 as Konstanze in Mozart's Die Entführung aus dem Serail, and a year...
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Haunted Heart, Renée Fleming
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Customer Ratings