In the world of opera, no two names have been as synonymously linked as Joan Sutherland and Marilyn Horne. Or pairings as familiar as Luciano Pavarotti and Mirella Freni. Well, tonight the opera world can add another set of names to the list immortal pairings. They are Renée Fleming and Susan Graham; two home-grown American divas touring the country right now performing works by Saint-Saëns, Fauré, Debussy, Berlioz, Offenbach, and more. Together they knocked out New York City on Jan. 27, 2013, in a recital at Carnegie Hall accompanied by Bradley Moore that left everyone cheering and calling for encores.
The evenings theme was that of a cozy French salon with duets and solo art songs of that genre. The recital opened with a recorded interview of Mary Garden telling of her experience dealing with French composers. Her answers were quite brazen which surely intended to be a clue as to how the night would progress. Our diva’s took the stage (Renée in a glorious gown with train, and Susan in a stunning one-shoulder dress with a plume of sparking diamonds dripping down her side), and jumped right into the jaunty "Pastorale" by Saint-Saëns. After which Ms. Graham invited us, “into [their] salon for a soiree Franaçise.” The dialog throughout was a bit stiff and seemed unnatural, but quite informative nonetheless, and added an informal, homey touch.
The duets continued with Fauré’s “Puisqu’ici-bas, Op. 10, No. 1” where the ladies played around with some musical schtick. And “Pleurs d’or, Op. 72” which was nothing short of colossal beauty.
They then departed from one another for a short while, But not before Mr. Moore was allowed a moment to shine with a rendition of Debussy’s “Clair de lune,” from Suite bergamasque, which flowed with such fluid tension that really made the piece come alive. Often a piece such as this is overlooked as overplayed (which is it), but when in the hands of a master, it is alive anew.
Ms. Fleming was first to give a solo set wherein her “Beau soir” by Claude Debussy had the audience totally captivated by her ability to draw in everyone with the power of her communicative voice. Hearing her on a recording is one thing, but it is nothing compared to the power of looking into an artist’s eyes and seeing straight into their soul. This kind of moment happened a great many times this night. And the world is the better for it.
After the intermission, Ms. Graham took a set by herself. By now, she had changed into a drop-dead-gorgeous silver creation that got many an “ooh and awe” from the audience. She herself was taken aback, comedically speaking.
Her first piece by Reynaldo Hahn was simply as stunning as the dress she was wearing. Complete with an ending that just broke ones heart. Ms. Graham is an artist of the highest quality, and again broke our hearts at the end of her second piece “Infidélité” by the same composer.
The ladies were joined once more with Hector Berlioz’s “La mort d’Ophélie.” If one hadn’t figured it out by now, one certainly got the message that we were witnessing history in the making. By the end of this duet, it was clear that this was not just another evening at Carnege Hall, this was a life-enriching, soul-filling event of music that left one feeling fortunate that you were there to experience it all. Two great forces in their own right, but when combined, these musicians melded their voices to the extent that one could not tell where Ms. Graham ended and Ms. Fleming began. It is the vocal equivalent of two richly decorated silk scarves intertwining around one another.
They lightened and set the tone for the rest of the evening with the comic “Blance-Marie et Marie-Blanche,” from Les p’tites Michu by André Messager, and finished the concert with a beautiful “Barcarolle,” from Les contes d’Hoffmann, and the “Flower Duet” from Lakmé.
It is quite clear that these lovely ladies are still in top form, and are still at the top of their game. If this concert is performing in a city near you, do yourself a favor and buy a ticket. You most certainly will not regret it, nor will you forget it.
For more information about Susan Graham, click here.
For more information about Renée Fleming, click here.
For more information about Bradley Moore, click here.
For more information about Carnegie Hall, click here.