Renée Fleming Goes Pop

Thursday, June 03, 2010 - 09:15 AM

This weekend, Renée Fleming will release her 29th album. But it isn't a new recording of a Romantic opera or a set of lieder: America's favorite soprano has gone pop.

Dark Hope features eleven covers, including songs by the Arcade Fire and Jefferson Airplane.  And Fleming shows us new colors in her voice as she sings low in her range and abandons her vibrato and coloratura. You can hear the imprint of producer David Kahne, who has produced albums by Regina Spektor and Paul McCartney, among others. The album's arrangements are thick with both real and electronic instruments, along with an occasional backup chorus of Fleming's sister and two daughters.

The album is receiving a lot of attention from both classical and pop critics, though not all has been favorable: before commending Fleming for her efforts, the NY Times's Jon Pareles complained that some tracks, like Leonard Cohen’s 'Hallelujah,' 'end up too plush and fussy, while Muse’s 'Endlessly' teeters toward cheesy Euro disco.”

But if anyone is guaranteed to like the album, it’s Michael Stinchcomb. An opera aficionado and hair stylist, Stinchcomb appeared on the show in 2001 to describe his admiration for (and slight obsession with) Fleming's music.

Below is a preview of the album and a look behind the scenes.

Even if the ultra-slick arrangement style isn't for you, you'll be able to appreciate Fleming's sincerity; unlike many crossover attempts, she avoids infantilizing the pop selections by approaching them with a mindset and technique entirely separate from her classical performances. Brava.

— Becky Sullivan

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Comments [2]

KoKo the Talking Ape

For this excursion into "another musical world" as she calls it, Fleming was coached in making her voice small, natural and authentic. She sings in her lowest register, and she allows her voice to break here and there. The result is reminiscent of other pop altos like Cher. But there is still is an unmistakable precision and focus. Fleming's timing and intonation are perfect, and her diction is crisp, even when she is throwing away lines, as in "Mad World."

That is the lesson that classical can teach pop, that by disciplining personal identity in service of the music, expression becomes stronger, not weaker.

Fleming is studiously frank. I for one find the combination of directness and protean musicianship compelling, and for some reason, remarkably erotic.

Jun. 19 2010 03:46 AM
John

I can't believe that Renee is going Rock! Her voice would sound good in any genre of music.

Jun. 10 2010 04:31 PM

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