Renée Takes Seattle

Fleming gives it all she’s got, and that’s a lot
Thursday, January 20, 2005
Renée Fleming came and conquered the full house Tuesday night at Benaroya Hall.
Now 45, the soprano is in her prime, not only with that voluptuous voice but her musical acuity and dramatic instincts.
When singers become as famous as Fleming, connoisseurs find something to criticize, often justified: a mannered style or lackluster ambition in terms of repertory, for instance. When the voice is as gorgeous and gleaming as Fleming’s, there is always the danger the singer will be content to deliver a pretty sound and little else.
That argument has been made against Fleming, but there was little in her recital, presented by the Seattle Symphony, to support it, in spite of the occasional technical smudge. I have been listening to Fleming live for 15 years, and I cannot remember a more persuasive evening of her art.
With Fleming, one begins with the voice itself: a sound like cream that travels effortlessly up and down the scale. There is radiance in the voice as well as purity, strength and openness. Its warmth is balanced with roundness. It blossoms when you want it to and can crawl into a silvery pianissimo when desired. She possesses a line that seemingly can travel forever without interruption. She can be exquisite or ardent and, at Benaroya, she never confused the two. The voice summons the word lyrical and all that it implies, from sheer beauty of tone to seamless phrasing. She can float a note, or series of notes, to the degree the ear follows closely as the sound slips into nothingness.
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