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Customer Reviews

The Best Bel Canto Anthology in Years

Bel canto is the most vocally agile form of opera singing and offers no room to hide the smallest technicalities or signs of vocal aging. The repertoire is therefore most often tackled by younger singers, showing off parts of the voice that performers usually loose as they get older. It’s strange therefore to find Fleming, in the middle of her career, to begin recording bel canto now. But I am so happy she did! This disc is the best bel canto anthology in a long time. Fleming delivers something that's been absent from these roles in recent years. This repertory demands not only an Olympic gold medal instrument, but also an astute actress capable of creating a character through each note of the music. Fleming is up to the challenge, finding dramatic purpose in every note. Not since Sills and Callas has an artist been able to portray character so well in the Bel Canto repertoire. Fleming offers up an intelligent program with both familiar and lesser known works. Fleming's program encompasses not only the famously tragic bel canto mad scenes of Bellini’s Il Pirata and I puritani but also the jubiliant Rossini’s Semiramide and the playful Rossini's Armida. Vocally, Fleming’s upper register sometimes lacks the pinpoint accuracy that one is accustomed to hearing from coloraturas and less vocally dark lyric sopranos, but it's still incredibly solid, and wonderfully dramatic. As for the low to middle register all I can say is wow!!! Fleming's death-haunted moments, which are so often written in the very lowest notes of the soprano range, have a chilling strength that sometimes eclipses Callas. Best of all on this CD is the Lucrezia Borgia scene: the heroine is going mad over the death of her son, an emotional state that Fleming enters with chilling realism. As one critic said, “In the final moments, Fleming delivers the concluding coloratura flourish with an explosive sense of surprise that's both moving and dazzling. She masters the art of finding dire truths in those formulaic music and texts.” My only criticism of Fleming is that at times her performance seems too calculated, like she’s pulling out the trick rabbit. But what tricks! They dazzle, shine, and entertain! As does this CD.

Renee Fleming: Bel Canto Scenes

As a lover Sills, Sutherland & Caballe in these roles, I have now been introduced to their successor. I heard her on Live from the Met a few years ago in a Salieri opera. Her legato is like early Sutherland and is heavenly. She is a very focused singer and her characters are believable. I highly recommend this album.


Born: Loogootee, Indiana

Genre: Classical

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

Although Patrick Summers is best known as a conductor of contemporary opera, particularly American opera, his work extends across the standard operatic and symphonic repertoire. He has worked in some of the world's most prestigious opera houses and regularly conducts at the Metropolitan Opera, San Francisco Opera, Houston Opera, and Opera Australia. At the San Francisco Opera and Houston Grand Opera he has played a key role in the development of over a dozen world premieres. Summers grew up in Loogootee,...
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