Renée Fleming opened the Lubbock Symphony Orchestra’s 2014-15 season before a capacity audience at the Civic Center Auditorium. Ms Fleming appeared in both halves of the concert. The program is below. Fleming who has obviously done this kind of show before had the crowd with her from the moment she first appeared. At this point in her career she has learned to husband her resources over the course of a long program. Accordingly, there were just a few forte high notes. What she offered was a beautifully controlled and lush sounding lyric soprano that she uses with great artistry.
The concert aria “Nehmt meinen Dank” written when Mozart was 26 served as warm-up. “Traume” one of the 5 Wesendonck Lieder, and the only one to be orchestrated by Wagner, fits into the center of Fleming’s comfort zone. She wanted the audience to be able to follow the words she was singing (printed in the program) and asked that the house lights be turned up so the texts could be more easily seen. The remaining songs of the concert’s first half were all sung with beauty and expression. Fleming was repeatedly called back to the stage after each selection. Most impressive were the two songs from Canteloube’s Chants d’Auvergne. Written between 1923 and 1930 in the Occitan language they have been a favorite of sopranos since their composition. Victoria de los Angeles used to sing them frequently.
During a concert that features a renowned soloist the orchestral selections usually serve as a break for the singer to collect herself between songs. But the LSO now in its third season under maestro David Cho has moved to a new level of excellence. They played with a brilliance not previously heard from this outstanding ensemble. The strings were lush and the brass flawless and bright. This an orchestra that can stand any comparison.
The second half of the program featured the only two opera arias that Ms Fleming sang. The first was from Riccardo Zandonai’s 1911 opera Conchita. The title role was written for the composer’s future wife Italian soprano Tarquinia Tarquini. The opera had a brief span of success even being performed at the Met in 1913 before disappearing. The ubiquitous “O mio babbino caro” was the second opera piece. Fleming gave the famous number a restrained and imploring reading which is in keeping with the aria’s text.
The arias were preceded by the Italian priest Licinio Refice’s well known song “Ombra di nube”. Fleming concluded the scheduled part of her program with a series of American show tunes. For these she used a microphone. Opera singers often have problems with these songs as they require a different vocal register from that used in opera. Even with the microphone Fleming still sounded like the opera artist she is. No matter – the audience loved her interpretations. She gave 4 encores (see below) the last of which she turned into a sing along – everyone did.
The LSO’s season opener was a huge success. The guest performer exceeded expectations, which were quite high; the orchestra played at a world class level; and the auditorium was full. What more could one ask?
George Gershwin – Fascinatin’ Rhythym
Ennio Morricone – Two songs from Once Upon a Time in the West
Lerner and Lowe – I could have danced all night