Fleming keeps listeners captivated
When soprano Renée Fleming performs, standing ovations and relentless applause are no surprise. She is one of the greatest divas of the operatic world and one of the most-loved sopranos in the nation. Expectations for the Honolulu Symphony Orchestra's concert Friday were very high, and heavy rain and flooded roads discouraged no one.
With soprano Renée Fleming
In concert: 4 p.m. today
Place: Blaisdell Concert Hall
Tickets: $20 to $73
Call: 792-2000 or Ticketmaster, (877) 750-4400
Nobody should stay home today, either -- in fact, many of us will return. The concert surpassed any expectation, keeping us breathless the whole time. It was a musical celebration of talent, mastery, expression, brilliance, humor, passion and control. Plus, her dresses (one for each part of the concert) were fabulous!
The program was exquisite and the orchestra, under the expert baton of Samuel Wong, was in top shape. Together, Fleming and Wong took us on an emotional roller coaster.
The soprano explained that she chose the eclectic program to provide an idea of who she is. Ranging from Mozart's joyfulness to passionate Italian arias, from Strauss' intensity to some of the greatest American songs, she showed how accomplished she is.
Mozart's motet, "Exsultate, Jubilate," exudes joy and brightness in the outer faster movements and in the expressive "Andante." Fleming's light and fast bravura passages and her steady, distinct vibrato made the "Alleluja" sound easy.
Richard Strauss, she said, is her focus these days, so she treated us to her premiere of an aria from "Die Liebe der Danae." The long, arching melodic line is typical of Strauss and requires pathos and breathing control combined. Fleming was mesmerizing.
Heart-stopping, however, was the aria "Poveri fiori" from Cilea's "Adriana Lecouvreur." The soprano silenced all creatures in the hall with her moving interpretation in top-quality Italian style. To keep the momentum, she continued with Leonora's aria "Tacea la notte," from Verdi's "Il Trovatore."
Songs by Porter, Rodgers and Loewe concluded the program, with Fleming singing in her "legit" voice. The audience joined her in "My Fair Lady" -- a lot of fun. Three encores followed, two famous arias by Puccini and the beautiful Strauss song "Cäcilie."
The program also featured the orchestra in three buoyant pieces: the overture to Mozart's "The Marriage of Figaro," Strauss' "Don Juan" and Samuel Barber's overture to "The School for Scandal." The musicians' great control and balance was superb.
All souls who like music -- any kind of music -- should attend today and indulge themselves with this blissful performance. And if you miss it, let's hope that Fleming keeps her promise to come back on a sunnier day.
Valeria Wenderoth has a Ph.D. in musicology from the University of Hawaii at Manoa, where she also teaches.