Renée Fleming

Guilty Pleasures

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The "guilty pleasures" referred to in the title of this release by American soprano Renée Fleming are Fleming's own; they are small pieces that she has always wanted to record. Of course they require no apology at all. Even the familiar numbers, such as the Flower Duet from Délibes' Lakmé (track 9, performed with Susan Graham), have the kind of freshness that seems impossible if you consider that Fleming has been singing them for decades. Actually some of the music is quite unusual for an orchestral-song-and-aria collection of this kind. Fleming sings in eight languages, including Occitan, and she has both the panache and the prestige to include such items as John Corigliano's "Once there was a golden bird," from The Ghosts of Versailles, and "Vendulka's Lullaby" from Smetana's rarely heard opera The Kiss. Fleming was 53 when this album was recorded, but it is mighty hard to identify any of the vocal maladies that begin to afflict sopranos of that age. Sample the chilling, silvery finale of Undine's aria from Tchaikovsky's early opera Undine, itself not terribly frequently performed, for confirmation. It is not only the creamy tones but the sense of fun and accomplishment that makes Fleming such a joy to listen to, and these qualities are on fully display here, ably encouraged by the Philharmonia Orchestra under Sebastian Lang-Lessing.

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