Gala concerts are grand occasions--big-name stars gather with a great orchestra to let their hair down for an evening that's usually a change from regular symphony programs. The stars of STAR CROSSED LOVERS are Placido Domingo, Renée Fleming and Daniel Barenboim, and the theme of their gala evening in late January, 1998, was love. Although the audience is completely inaudible in the live portions of this disc, they must have had a grand time indeed, for Domingo, Fleming and Barenboim gave them an evening of great music impeccably performed.
For the opening mini-suite from 'West Side Story,' the Chicago players capture the jazzy elements of Bernstein's music with ease; Fleming's "Somewhere" is stirring and elegant. Operatic duets from 'Otello' and 'Faust' break up the remainder of the program, which consists of Spanish songs from Domingo and Duke Ellington from Fleming, both with Barenboim at the piano. Separated from the other two of the Three Tenors, Domingo brings a refreshing lack of excess to his songs, and Fleming's Ellington is truly exquisite as she sets herself into a languid yet stratospheric take on the tunes. In Franz Lehár's duet "Lippen schweigen" they come together to bring the proceedings to a waltzing close.