Not even the annual Academy Awards telecast could prevent those present from experiencing the vocal brilliance, artistry and warm presence of soprano extraordinaire and opera super star Renée Fleming, who appeared in a sold-out concert Sunday at the Palladium in Carmel.
Fleming, who has come to be known as “the people’s diva” for not taking herself too seriously and for her casual sense of humor, even referenced the award ceremony — happening in Hollywood at the same time as her concert — when she jokingly said, “If I had known it was Oscar night, I would have brought more gowns.”
Herself a winner of prestigious awards, Fleming recently received a 2013 Grammy for Best Classical Vocal Solo for “Poèmes” (Decca, 2012), a collection of 20th-century French music. It was her third Grammy award.
Possessing a full lyric soprano voice, and with a repertoire that encompasses not only opera but also jazz and indie rock, Fleming has performed on some of the finest opera stages and in some of the greatest concert halls all over the world.
Over the past few seasons, Fleming, who is considered a musical ambassador, has also branched out into other mediums, such as hosting a wide variety of television and radio broadcasts. They have included “Live from Lincoln Center” on PBS and the Metropolitan Opera’s “Live in HD” series for movie theaters and television.
The attractive Fleming, looking as glamorous as any Hollywood star, wore separate gowns during the two acts of her concert, in which she performed a varied program of songs and arias that showcased both her versatility and her virtuosity. She was accompanied by pianist Richard Bado.
The concert commenced with Fleming singing arias by George Frideric Handel, allowing the audience to immerse themselves in the beauty of her pristine voice and uncommon musicality. Selections included “O Sleep, why dost thou leave me?” from “Semele” and “Calm thou my soul” from “Alexander Balus, HWV 65.”
“A Streetcar Named Desire” is an opera written by André Previn that is based on Tennessee Williams’ iconic play of the same title. And a highlight of Act 2 took place when Fleming treated the audience to a preview of her upcoming March 14 performance as the tragic Blanche DuBois, in Previn’s work, at Carnegie Hall in New York City. Exhibiting her stellar dramatic talent, Fleming sang a suite of arias from the opera, including “Soft People,” “There are thousands of papers” and “Sea Air.”
Act 2 selections, which further showcased Fleming’s immense vocal range, included songs from “Ariettes Oubliées” by Claude Debussy (based on poems by Paul Verlaine) and songs from “Chants d’Auvergne” by Joseph Canteloube.
“O mio babbino caro,” one of Giacomo Puccini’s most recognizable arias from “Schicchi,” proved to be another concert highlight. Blessed with a voice exquisite in tone, Fleming infused the piece with an emotional depth that made it distinctively her own.
In response to sustained applause and to the delight of all, Fleming sang three encore numbers and further ingratiated herself with the audience when she acknowledged the top ranked IU basketball team, remarking, “Congratulations to the Hoosiers … I bet you didn’t think I knew about them.”
Fleming’s encore selections consisted of “Summertime” from “Porgy and Bess,” “I Could Have Danced All Night” from “My Fair Lady” (during which she encouraged the audience to sing along), and “Vissi d‘arte,” the celebrated aria from “Tosca” by Puccini.
For tickets and information about upcoming 2012-2013 season performances at the Center for the Performing Arts, call (317) 843-3800 or visit www.thecenterfortheperformingarts.org.
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