Renée Fleming: Broadway

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Renée Fleming



October 8, 2018

Reviewed by Michael Miyazaki for Cabaret Scenes

Certain audiophiles seek out the “pop” albums of opera singers for a thrilling mismatch of material and vocal style leavened by a questionable comprehension of the text. (For a high/low in this genre, listen to Elly Ameling’s recording of Sondheim’s “Can That Boy Foxtrot.”) Renée Fleming’s new CD, Broadway, will disappoint that crowd. It offers a varied line-up of standards, both classic and emerging, sung with deep musicality, vocal variety, and appreciation for the text of the song.

For classic Broadway standards Fleming unsurprisingly records a number of Golden Age of Broadway goodies with an emphasis on the Rodgers & Hammerstein cannon, such as “Something Wonderful,” “A Wonderful Guy,” “The Sound of Music,” and “The Loneliness of Evening” (cut from South Pacific). These, along with She Loves Me’s “Dear Friend” and The Music Man’s “Till There Was You,” are beautifully sung in the Broadway soprano style in standard show orchestrations, many to moving effect. Fleming also gives us a passionate performance of “Fable” from The Light in the Piazza, one of the most operatic musicals of recent memory.

However, when she veers from the expected, the recording truly shines. She transports the listener to an audio after-hours jazz club with Cole Porter’s “Down in the Depths (on the Ninetieth Floor)” and Jerome Kern/Oscar Hammerstein’s “All the Things You Are.” Leslie Odom, Jr. joins her for a searing, soaring medley of “Children Will Listen” and “You’ve Got to be Carefully Taught.”

Fleming finds a shimmering plaintiveness in “Unusual Way” from Nine and a melancholy strength in “Tell Me on a Sunday” (Song and Dance). Dear Evan Hansen’s “So Big/So Small” is delivered with a folk simplicity that amplifies the impact of its lyric. In the most unexpected track, she provides a haunted intensity to “August Winds” from Sting’s The Last Ship

“The Glamorous Life” from A Little Night Music provides what feels like the recording’s most personal moment. Fleming performs the stage version of the song and, in best soprano fashion, co-opts the portions normally sung by Desirée’s mother and daughter. In it, Fleming deploys a kaleidoscopic variety of colors such as joy, resignation, humor, and exhaustion, appropriate to a song that weighs a woman’s conflicting choices among family, career, and romance.

Michael Miyazaki

Michael Miyazaki is a Washington DC/Baltimore area-based performer, director, and writer. He has performed at various venues in the DC area, and his most recent show is Thanks for the Memories: The Musical Legacy of Bob Hope. He has appeared with numerous local theater troupes including Scena Theatre, the Source Theatre, and Fraudulent Productions. He has attended the Perry-Mansfield Cabaret Workshop (working with master teachers Andrea Marcovicci, Karen Mason, Barry Kleinbort, Christopher Denny, Shelly Markham, and David Gaines), and has also studied under Sally Mayes, Tex Arnold, Lina Koutrakos, Rick Jensen, Amanda McBroom, and Alex Rybeck. He is the creator of the blog The Miyazaki Cabaret Update: DC & Beyond (currently on hiatus) and is a member of the DC Cabaret Network and the Arts Club of Washington.