Sunday, November 1, 2009

Renée Fleming and RPO at the Concertgebouw

Renée Fleming and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra cond. by Charles Dutoit
Amsterdam, October 31 2009
(1) Romeo and Juliet Fantasy-overture
(2) Letter scene from Eugene Onegin
(3) Polonaise from Eugene Onegin
(4) "Musette svaria sulla bocca viva" (La Bohème)
(5) "Mimì Pinson la biondinetta" (La Bohème)
(6) "Nel Suo Amore" (Siberia)
(7) "Sola, Perduta, Abbandonata" (Manon Lescaut)
(8) "O Mio Babbino Caro" (Puccini - Gianni Schicchi)


(9) Symphony no. 9 "From the New World"

Concertgebouw Amsterdam
So, last night I went to Renée Fleming's concert in Amsterdam. I didn't quite know the programme (it seemed liable to change a lot, so it was something of a surprise what we were going to get), but I was expecting lots of verismo, as that is the title of her latest album. And it really was an amazing concert, if not for two 'buts'. 'But' no.1: Renée didn't sing that much (let alone verismo). 'But' no.2: The Royal Philharmonic and Renée were not entirely 'balanced', with the orchestra at times drowning Renée's voice (especially in the Eugene Onegin letter scene).

Before the concert

After a wonderfully-played Romeo and Juliet overture, Renée Fleming appeared on stage, and started to sing the letter scene from Eugene Onegin. Beautifully done, but horridly drowned by the orchestra. Low notes had to be more or less mentally filled in. Renée's mouth was moving, but my ears just didn't register anything. High notes were more audible, but the overall balance just sucked. Maybe, but unlikely, it was just my part of the hall that was unlucky. I guess the real problem was the lack of rehearsal (or even sound checking) in the hall, and getting the 'feel' of it.

Photographing crowds storming at Renée down in the hall

Fortunately, the Italian arias required less orchestral 'violence', so they were more audible (and Renée's voice wasn't drowned anymore). First, we got the two arias from Leoncavallo's Bohème. Beautiful gems, but as everyone who has listened to Fleming's verismo album knows, they're very short. Then we got the beautiful 'Nel suo amore', also from the verismo album. Again, beautifully done. Last, we got 'Sola, Perduta, Abbandonata' - this one especially was amazingly done.

Renée receiving applause and flowers

I was counting on 2-3 encores, to be honest, because I felt the verismo part of the concert was pretty meagre as it was. I was thinking 'Sì. Mi chiamano Mimì' and Suor Angelica's 'Senza Mamma' at the very least - nothing like closing off a concert with some Puccini hits, right? Well, we got a Puccini hit alright - "O mio babbino caro", amazingly sung. The house fell into an adorational frenzy. Unfortunately, that was apparently all the encore we were going to get. After the interval Fleming had disappeared from sight, and although we got a beautiful New World Symphony, it was a pity the main draw (Fleming) was missing.

Renée signing programmes, cds etc.

But Fleming hadn't left the house yet - she was to have a signing session after the concert. Knowing the Dutch as people who generally don't give a damn about this stuff, I had sort of expected only a small group of hardcore fans to show up at the signing. Boy, was I wrong! It was a complete massacre! I guess almost a bit too insane for my tastes. Nevertheless, it was worth it - I waited my turn and got my programme and verismo cd signed. So did my sister. After about half an hour, the crowds had thinned a bit, and I could take some decent pictures of La Fleming signing.

Renée signing my sister's cd booklet.
All in all, a great concert, but too short when it came to its main draw (Fleming), and not 'balanced' enough volume-wise. But don't mistake me - I had a very good time and would go again if I could. I'm just hoping next time Renée will sing a bit more.
Next up: Friday 6th L'Elisir d'Amore, Tuesday 10th Cecilia Bartoli (I'm pretty sure she has had enough time to really balance things out with Il Giardino Armonico, and that she will sing the amount of arias the main draw of a concert is supposed to sing - so, very much looking forward to it!), Friday 13th Salome.

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