Review : Renee Fleming - Dark Hope
FlyglobalmusicIt’s a bit of a transformation from one minute being a three-time Grammy award winning opera star used to appearing in all the world’s premier concert halls, as well as performing at President Obama’s Inagural Celebration, to performing songs by not only popular artists, but those that are more celebrated for their dark forebodings.
It’s the sort of thing that more classical artists are looking into these days (but lets not get into classical vs. cross over charts debates al a Katherine Jenkins et al) but it’s the sort of thing jazz pianist Brad Mehldau has done in the past and you may recall that Brad and Renée collaborated on an album four years ago on Nonesuch called Love Sublime.
I said in that review that Ms. Fleming’s voice is “pure Opera” so it comes as a total surprise that on A Dark Hope there’s more of a Country sound; well she was born in Indiana. But can you imagine her getting turned onto Willy Mason at Portmouth’s Wedgewood Rooms back in 2005 when he was riding the wave of his EMO hit ‘Oxygen’ or moshing in the pit to Teignmouth’s finest Muse in the mere 2000 capacity Solent Hall at BIC six months before? (see links below to my Gigwise days although Muse seems to have gone altogether).
Well she opens with a MOR/sub 80s disco version of Muse’s ‘Endlessly’ which is saved by her voice that’s a match for Mr. Bellamy (and if he’s still holding a torch for Alicia Keys, time to drop it for Renée I’d say) whilst that already mentioned ‘Oxygen’ has a fairground bounce to it that’s quite disconcerting (albeit with uplifting strings).
And on it goes with rockers Arcade Fire (‘Intervention’), even harder rockers The Mars Volta (‘With Twilight As My Guide’ taken from last years’ album Octahedron; the closest they’ve got to alt.country) and 60s rockers Jefferson Airplane; ‘Today’ really suits her a voice and it’s good to hear the song without the overload tambourine of the original....full text
BbcRenée Fleming is an accomplished soprano who's sung opera for the last 30 years, and is now turning her hand to rock and pop with this eclectic album of covers. The song choices – from The Mars Volta to Leonard Cohen – are uneven yet interesting, and there’s little to nitpick about her voice, but the project isn’t altogether successful.
The tiresome question hanging over it is: what's this for? Of course most music doesn't have to contribute anything especially; it is what it is. Covers, however, are what something else is, and if you're treading in someone else's musical footprints then you're, um, on the back foot from the start. It must be humbling even for a performer of Fleming’s standing.
Fleming’s precise phrasing and sonorous expression in this uncertain new context immediately and unfortunately brings to mind operatic metallers Within Temptation. She sounds almost like Marianne Faithfull, if Marianne Faithfull could really sing.
Her voice is deeper than you expect – her take on the gentle No One's Gonna Love You by Band of Horses is transposed lower than seems necessary, sapping something from the song. The soaring high notes she allows herself throughout are pure and extraordinary, but they’re rare. She seems to be going against her own voice as well as her genre....full text
BandweblogsFleming, the superstar soprano known as "the people's diva," says of 'Dark Hope': "I've always been inspired by artists who have shown musical and intellectual curiosity and the courage to take risks. Because everything about the voice interests me, I felt it would be fascinating to learn a completely different style of singing."
Producer Kahne was a true collaborator during the recording process, driving most of the arrangements and coaching Fleming in this music. Also joining Fleming on the album are her two daughters and sister, who sing backup on several songs.
Fleming says that for the recording of this album, "Singing in a small, acoustic booth, with a microphone that's very close, in this very intimate style, is the complete opposite of how I usually sing."
There were similarities to how she prepares dramatically for an opera role, however. Fleming points out that for each track on 'Dark Hope' "we found an interpretation that enabled the point of view to sound authentic coming from me. Every song has a story, so this whole idea of enacting or playing a role is doubly true for this music."
Renée Fleming, a Fulbright Scholar and three-time Grammy award winner, has captivated audiences at leading opera houses and concert halls around the world. Last year, the acclaimed soprano was a featured performer at President Obama's Inaugural Celebration....full text
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