Renee Fleming Finally Tackles Christmas

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Soprano Renee Fleming has been a beloved figure on the operatic stage for years. So it’s curious that Ms. Fleming has waited so long to release her first-ever Christmas album entitled Christmas in New York.

The recording features many guest appearances by New York-based musicians including Wynton Marsalis, Chris Botti, Rufus Wainwright and Gregory Porter. The album contains only two sacred works – In the Bleak Midwinter and Still, Still, Still. The rest of the songs are traditional lighter fair such as Winter Wonderland, Merry Christmas Darling and Central Park Serenade.

Christmas in New York is one of many new releases Classical 90.5 will feature in the days to come during the holiday season.

New Releases for the New Year

Jonas Kaufmann The Verdi Album

This strange new world of 2014 has already produced several new vocal albums by some of the opera world’s biggest fish. So if you’re still in search of worthy purchases for that cash you got from returning unwanted Christmas presents, here are two options to consider and one to ridicule:

Jonas Kaufmann: The Verdi Album

With the 200th anniversary of Verdi’s birth in 2013, artists and record labels have been producing Verdi compilation albums in copious numbers. Luckily for opera lovers, tenor Jonas Kaufmann jumped right on that Verdi-producing wagon, and has released his stellar Verdi Album. Kaufmann performs perennial favorites like “La donna è mobile” and “Celeste Aida,” as well as tackling some of the more difficult repertoire, including two selections from Otello. Kaufmann’s rich voice and thoughtful delivery make his Verdi Album a must-listen for the anniversary year.

Bryn Terfel: Homeward Bound

The insert for Bryn Terfel’s latest release Homeward Bound depicts the bass-baritone performing such everyday activities as standing stoically on the edges of large rocks as the sun sets behind him and sitting casually in front a large lake with the pristine image of the sky mirrored in its surface. This and other ridiculously cheesy absurdities characterize the release.  Supported by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, Terfel gives several much-loved American classics, such as “Home on the Range” and “When the Saints Go Marchin’ In,” the “grand opera treatment,” with some rather unfortunate results. The insert also includes some of the most nauseatingly sweet liner notes I’ve ever read, matched only in sappiness by the arrangements of the songs themselves. You can check it out for yourself in the video here:

Renee Fleming: Guilty Pleasures

I was bit apprehensive when popping Guilty Pleasures, Renee Fleming’s newest vocal release, into the CD player for the first time. To me, the words “guilty pleasure” imply something truly terrible, on the scale of a Taylor Swift cover or Bryn Terfel singing “What a Wonderful World.” Fortunately, Renee Fleming has a completely different understanding of the phrase. Her new album is a collection of arias and art songs accompanied by orchestra, most of which are unlikely to be heard on the opera stage or concert hall. Included are a number of pieces from the underrepresented operatic works of the Czech composers Dvorak and Smetana, as well as the delightfully watery aria from Tchaikovsky’s lost opera Undina. In fact, the only true guilty pleasure of the album is the “Flower Duet” from Lakmé, which Fleming sings with her longtime colleague and friend Susan Graham. If you’d like some insights about the album from Renee Fleming herself, check out this video:

Awards and Honors

Awards for the arts and humanities from the White House and Governor of Kentucky were awarded and announced today. The President and First Lady attended a ceremony in the East Room where Renée Fleming, the Washington Performing Arts Society, Herb Alpert, George Lucas, Tony Kushner and others received the 2012 National Medal of Arts and National Humanities Medal.

Closer to home, the 2013 Governor’s Awards in the Arts were announced, and awarded to individuals businesses and organizations recognized for their “outstanding contribution, achievement in and support of the arts.” The complete list of awards ishere, and includes 21C Museum Hotel, Edward White and Actors Theatre of Louisville. The public ceremony will be held at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 29, 2013, in the Capitol Rotunda in Frankfort.

Fleming and Graham – Live from Carnegie Hall!

Carnegie Hall Live starts at 8pm. Join the live chat here, starting at 7:30pm, and follow the concert on Twitter using #CHLive. Texts and translations here, and read the program notes here.

Renée Fleming and Susan Graham from Carnegie Hall Live

Join the live chat here!
Two of the most remarkable voices of our time, Renée Fleming and Susan Graham, team up for a full evening of French songs, with pianist Bradley Moore. The broadcast starts at 8pm, with a live chat at 7:30pm. You can also join the conversation on Twitter, using hashtag #CHLive.

Program (Subject to change without notice)
SAINT-SAËNS “Pastorale”
SAINT-SAËNS “Viens”
SAINT-SAËNS “El desdichado”
FAURÉ “Puisqu’ici bas,” Op. 10, No. 1
FAURÉ “Pleurs d’or,” Op. 72
FAURÉ Pavane in F-sharp Minor, Op. 50
FAURÉ “Tarentelle,” Op. 10, No. 2
DEBUSSY “Clair de lune”
DEBUSSY “Mandoline”
DEBUSSY “Beau soir”
DELIBES “Les filles de Cadix”
HAHN “Le rossignol des lilas”
HAHN “Infidélité”
HAHN “Fêtes galantes”
HAHN “Le printemps”
BERLIOZ “La mort d’Ophélie,” Op. 18, No. 2
ANDRÉ MESSAGER “Blanche-marie et Marie-Blanche” from Les P’tites Michu
OFFENBACH Barcarolle from Les contes d’Hoffmann
DELIBES “Duo des fleurs” from Lakmé

This recital is part of Fleming’s Perspectives Series: