Advantages Virtuosic operatic vocalism, unusual repertoire, mad scenes...
Disadvantages Fleming's voice is maybe not best suited for this...
Bel Canto - she sure can beltoIf there is any area in classical music which polarises opinion more than singers and singing, then I have yet to come across it. I've been in opera performances where the conductor has had to halt the show after an aria, because of one portion of the audience booing the singer, whilst the other tried to drown out their boos with cheers... Or I remember another occasion in a very elite Viennese concert-hall where two very well dressed gentlemen came to blows after one made "an insulting remark" about the other's favourite soprano. People can get pretty vocal and worse about their favourite or least favourite vocalists.
I think the other big problem is that a singer can be great in some repertoire but then take a nose-dive in other areas and this is one factor in this particular CD. The human voice is such a personal thing that I think it is only to be expected that one man's meat is another man's poison.So what exactly IS "Bel Canto" - which is the title of this particular CD featuring renowned American soprano Renée Fleming? Simply put: Bel canto is the Italian term for "beautiful singing", but it is specifically applied towards a vocal technique which first developed in the 17th century in Italy and continued to develop towards a peak in the 19th century with many bel canto operas by composers such as Bellini, Rossini and Donizetti - all of whom feature on this CD. It is a very technically based way of singing, where the singer was ideally supposed to have a perfect evenness throughout their range of notes, but most importantly, the ability to use extensive ornamentation (or decoration) as part of and in addition to the melody. This frequently exceedingly florid flow of notes has made the genre famous for its use for highly over-emotional, frequently hysterical and often totally utterly barking (singing...?) mad heroines - a type very common in bel canto period operas! When the emotions are overflowing, when your life has fallen apart (or indeed together,) there's nothing like a bit of over-the-top bel canto to express all these over-the-top feelings. Some of the most famous 20th century bel canto sopranos were Joan Sutherland, the inimitable Maria Callas and Montserrat Caballé. Interestingly, Reneé Fleming has never really been regarded as a true bel canto soprano, which is one reason why this CD has received such divided opinions.
It is probably easiest to describe the essence of this disc with the following small example: In a German opera, one might sing the phrase -
I hate you with the notes
A B C a simple melodic line which can be full of musical expression in itself.
But in bel canto, you are going to find this kind of phrase:
I hate you
ACBDCEDFG# AGFEDCBA A C E A C E A with lots of ornamentation... fast runs, arpeggios, you name it - these singers will do it. It is a real virtuosic tour de force.
Renée Fleming is the soprano soloist on this disc. She was born in 1959 in America and has developed a world class career singing at the major world opera houses, enjoying a particularly close relationship with the Metropolitan Opera in New York.
|Quality and consistency of tracks|
|Cover / Inlay Design and Content|
|Value for Money|
|How does it compare to the artist's other releases||Average|
|How does it rate alongside the competition||Good|
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Release Date: 2003-11-03, Audio CD, Decca
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