Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

A Memorable Evening with Renee Fleming

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

A Memorable Evening with Renee Fleming

Article excerpt


The concert heard Wednesday evening at the Van Wezel, featuring the famous soprano Renee Fleming and the Sarasota Orchestra, was indeed memorable, if not always in the ways intended.

Before a capacity and super-enthusiastic audience, the Sarasota Orchestra made a group entrance before each half of the program, forgoing the extended on-stage warmup and tuning that had been somewhat unpopular in the past. Perhaps due to this change, the sound of the orchestra when it began the program was even more impressive than in the past.

Mozart's wonderful overture to "The Marriage of Figaro" was presented with memorable energy and rhythmic bounce, despite a few minor discrepancies in the string sections. The result was, in effect, a new level of musical achievement, followed by Renee Fleming's first contribution, the aria "Porgi, amor" from that opera.

As expected, her vocalism was rich and flexible; her stage presence both glamorous and sympathetic, although there were some moments when the orchestra seemed to dominate the tonal landscape more than expected.

Sarasota Orchestra's concertmaster Daniel Jordan then played the exquisite "Meditation" from Jules Massenet's opera "Thais." Once again, the balance seemed to be more in the orchestra's favor than is usually the case, although the overall effect was lovely and resulted in resounding -- and well-deserved -- applause for Jordan.

Fleming's interpretation of Samuel Barber's superb composition, "Knoxville: Summer of 1915," set to a moving and memorable text by James Agee, suffered from the tonal imbalance noted earlier, making it nearly impossible to understand the text from my position in the middle of the hall. Fleming is possessed of a large and lyrical voice and the Sarasota Orchestra played with sensitivity, but the important effect of the vocal part was mostly lost.

This loss, given the importance of this collaboration to modern music, is very important and may require some consideration of the effect the stage acoustic environment could have on future performances. …

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