Album Review: An Opera Star Gonna Star & Rene Fleming Is A Star On Her GREATEST MOMENTS AT THE MET

Who Is Opera? SHE Is Opera…

By: Mar. 31, 2023
Album Review: An Opera Star Gonna Star & Rene Fleming Is A Star On Her GREATEST MOMENTS AT THE MET
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Album Review: An Opera Star Gonna Star & Rene Fleming Is A Star On Her GREATEST MOMENTS AT THE MET Heigh Ho, dear lovely rainbow tribe, welcome back to Bobby's CD sandbox where we offer our broken-down breakdowns of new music releases. So, strap in and get ready, as Bobby goes on the record ABOUT the record.

This week's album entry in the BobbyFiles is a special 2-disc set from Decca that all our little Opera royals can kvell over because the reigning Queen of The Met, Renée Fleming, has released GREATEST MOMENTS AT THE MET. The star of the recent THE HOURS and two-time Broadway veteran (including a Tony nomination for Carousel) shows her history and staying power in 32 glorious tracks that take nearly two and a half hours to listen to. Don't fret, my dearlings, the album can be just as easily enjoyed in sections as it can in one fell swoop on a lengthy drive or an afternoon at home, lounging. It is, like La Fleming herself, simply marvelous.

We can almost hear you cry out, "But Bobby, why opera?!" Because, my dear Bobby readers, our beloved musical theater finds its earliest roots in the operatic artform, and even though Renée Fleming isn't presenting any Gilbert and Sullivan (technically operetta), her journey with The Met began with one of the most adored comedic operas of all time, Le Nozze Di Figaro, and (up until The Hours) had most recently seen her as Hanna Glawari in The Merry Widow, another comedic operetta of note and popularity. If we can't look back at these works by Mozart and Lehár and find the foundation of musical theater, well then, we aren't looking deeply enough. As time has gone on, Little Bobby has gravitated a little more toward Broadway's grandmother, grand opera, and while we are not strictly an opera queen, over the years we have risen at least to the rank of lady-in-waiting. Since the two-disc set is arranged in chronological order, listeners can expect four Figaro tracks, right off the bat (Does everyone know the famous story of how Madame Renee was a quick replacement for an ailing Felicity Lott in 1991, making her Met debut a year early, to acclaim and stardom?), and although these cuts are beautiful and show off The Lady Fleming to excellent advantage, the best is yet to come. That is as it should be.

One of the benefits of placing the songs on the album in order of appearance is that we get to hear Renée Fleming's evolution as an artist because, doncha know, these are all live recordings. Live. At The Met. Some of these recordings have never even been released on a digital platform, so unless a person has a turntable and a vinyl collection (8-track, cassette, or reel-to-reel), this might be the first time newer opera fans and younger folks are given the opportunity of hearing this glorious music. So, this ain't like a "Greatest Hits" album by a pop star or a compilation of songs pulled from the cast albums of a Broadway star: this is new digital material mixed in with previously available material, and all of it painstakingly curated for our listening pleasure.

And, dear ones, it is a pleasure.

Take, for instance, three tracks in a row from Verdi's Otello. Not only is the music itself a treat, so is the story. Even though it isn't a heavy-handed bit of drama, the section is wonderfully theatrical, dare Bobby even say Shakespearean, capturing the thrill of experiencing the story in real time, which, in a way, we are because of the live recording of it all. These are Fleming's greatest moments at The Met, a place she has called her musical home, where she has performed in nineteen operas (plus special appearances) in over two hundred performances. This isn't a concert hall or a recording studio: The Met is one of the characters in the play that is our diva's performing life and these live recordings bring that character into your living room. The electricity of hearing Fleming at The Met is viscerally captured, and so are the audience's reactions, and it makes the listening journey one we tangibly take with her.

Bobby could go track by track, opera by opera, but it wouldn't be fair to spoil the surprise for those looking forward to experiencing the journey in their headphones in real-time and besides... snore! Let's, instead, look at a couple of highlights, like the Act 1 aria from Dvořák's RUSALKA (which film buffs might remember from a scene in Driving Miss Daisy), which, in Fleming's performance, is rich and full of her techniques of both the acting and singing variety. Be sure to check out the Act 3 aria from Der Rosenkavalier, a duet with Susan Graham, one of several duet partners Fleming acts with on the album, including Samuel Ramey (the Act 4 Faust track is, naturally, dramatiquement), Cecilia Bartoli (fun on Figaro), and Dmitri Hvorostovsky with whom she shares two lovely cuts from La Traviata's second act that run from the romantic to the dramatiquement. And even though The Hours is too recent an addition to the Fleming/Met history, the recording from The Merry Widow (sadly not the original German text from Die Lustige Witwe) at the end of the album brings the journey full circle in a very satisfying way (one suspects they eschewed the obvious "Vilja" in order to feature a Nathan Gunn duet). If Little Bobby were going to pick a personal favorite listening moment from the entire two-plus hours of listening, though, it would be the 8th cut on the album, a selection from the 3rd Act of Arabella that doesn't grandstand or showboat, but simply preserves Renée Fleming's greatness, the beauty of her instrument, the breadth of her skill, and the depth of her interpretive talents. Arabella is on opera that Bobby didn't know until this album and, thanks to this recording, will be calling up on his Spotifies over the weekend to explore. The cut here is just beautiful.

In a one-two punch of Fleming flourishment (well, one-two-three, actually), Renée Fleming had a new Met success with The Hours on November 22nd, released this album on January 13th, and won her fifth Grammy on February 5th. They call Renée Fleming a superstar because she is a superstar and, dear Bobby readers, even if opera is not the main focus of your life, it is worth taking a walk on the wild side and getting to know a little more about the artist, the woman, and the art form, and there is no better place to start than here because Bobby gives the Decca label, The Met, Renée Fleming, and this album a dramatic and operatic

5 Out of 5 Rainbows

Put This One In Your Spotifies: HERE

Check Out All Things Renée Fleming & Link To Her Socials On Her Webbysite: HERE

Album Review: An Opera Star Gonna Star & Rene Fleming Is A Star On Her GREATEST MOMENTS AT THE MET


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