Supple soprano is a treat for all tastes
What is it with sopranos and the desserts named after them? No reference to the TV show, please, we're talking music here. First came the Pear Belle Helene, named for an Offenbach opera, then Peach Melba for the Australian singer. Now you've got La Diva Renee, a chocolate dessert found in New York's elite restaurants.
With soprano Renee Fleming:
In concert: 8 p.m. Friday, 4 p.m. Sunday
Place: Blaisdell Concert Hall
Tickets: $22 to $73
Call: 792-2000 or Ticketmaster, 877-750-4400
You know Renee Fleming has reached the pantheon when a master chef's creation bears your name. Indeed, she is the reigning prima donna supreme, acclaimed throughout the world as the "gold standard of soprano sound."
Standing beside the Honolulu Symphony Orchestra and maestro Sam Wong, the two-time Grammy award winner will show off her artistry, from the refinement of Mozart's arias to the lyricism of Verdi's operas, from the pathos of Richard Strauss to the suaveness of Cole Porter. No lengthy introduction, supporting roles or fancy costumes. Call it Renee Fleming unplugged, if you will.
If you were to ask Fleming, "What is your Fach?" the singer would instantly reply: "But full lyric soprano, of course!" You'd be relieved to hear that, but what in the world is a Fach?
Voice parts determine how high or low one can sing. Bass, baritone and tenor are male parts; alto, mezzo-soprano and soprano are female. In addition, each voice possesses a unique tonal color and ability. That's where the Fach -- a system that originated in German opera houses that classifies types of voices -- comes in.
Sopranos can be divided into lyric soprano, dramatic coloratura, dramatic soprano and more. Mimi, the leading character from Puccini's "La Bohème," is a part for lyric soprano, but Mozart's Queen of the Night from "The Magic Flute" is a dramatic coloratura because of its higher technical demand.
Fleming defies this simple labeling. The range in tone and color of her voice allows her to portray different roles, from a sensitive Mimi to a Viking-helmeted heroine full of stamina and power. Recently she's even ventured into the lighter stratospheric coloratura, ever expanding her repertoire.
Fleming's roots also cover many other styles of music, from jazz to musicals. She has an innate sense for classics like "My Fair Lady" and "Carousel."
Many singers today cross over to the lighter side, but when it's done wrong, the whole deal seems like a cheap marketing trick. I love "West Side Story," but when I hear the Three Tenors sing "I Feel Pretty," I long to see Natalie Wood on the big screen. This is never a problem with Fleming.
Her journey to Hawaii will bring pleasure to your senses, covering music of all tastes. Don't be surprised if a local master chef names a dessert in her honor after this weekend.
Ignace "Iggy" Jang
is the Honolulu Symphony's concertmaster. His column will appear on the Monday prior to each concert of the season to illuminate works to be performed. E-mail comments and questions to Jang at email@example.com