Cher Public

Shocked disbelief

“Her expression is one of shocked disbelief. Her appearance is incongruous to this setting. She is daintily dressed in a white suit with a fluffy bodice, necklace and earrings of pearl, white gloves and a hat, looking as if she were arriving at a summer tea or cocktail party in the garden district. She is five years older than Stella. Her delicate beauty must avoid strong light. There is something about her uncertain manner, as well as her white clothes, that suggest a moth.” [New York Times]

  • antikitschychick

    You know, I really do think its great that she champions new works, and that she’ll get to sing in English for once lol but she does not have the dramatic flair & prowess for a role like Blanche DuBois imho.

    • operadunce

      The performance I saw at LOC last March was pretty powerful. Anthony Griffey was also great. I can’t say how it compares to the performances of stage actresses who have played the role, but the overall effect of the entire performance was emotionally overwhelming imho. And RF can still sing it beautifully. I saw Anna Netrebko in Boheme the day before and she gave a great performance, beautiful singing and very effective acting, but it seemed lightweight in comparison. If you have a chance to see it, I think you will find the entire production to be quite effective. Btw, La Cieca, I’m not sure why you keep characterizing all of these performances as farewells. I don’t think Renee has promoted them as such. Wishful thinking?

      • manou

        “Thank you for being so kind! I need kindness now”

      • grimoaldo

        I saw Fleming do the role at the Barbican in London, they called it “semi-staged”, but it was really a full staging.
        I enjoyed both her performance and the whole opera a lot.

    • Cocky Kurwenal

      Although Fleming’s acting may not stand up to close scrutiny when it comes to the detail, I truly believe she has a real talent for getting to the emotional heart of a character and inspiring tremendous empathy in the audience. Among the most moving things I have ever seen anywhere include Fleming’s Rusalka (twice), Thais and incredible moments from her song recitals, in particular a plaint from Purcell’s Fairy Queen that had an unbelievable, slow burn impact, resulting in tears from many.

      • Porgy Amor

        She was excellent in the Met Onegin too — one of her best acting performances. She was surprisingly specific in the behavior, giving a sense that the character as we meet her is on the cusp of really growing up, so that sometimes (in the early scenes) she seems the young girl, sometimes the mature older woman, and it can vacillate very quickly. It was also some of her best later-career singing, and I wondered if the unfamiliarity of the language kept her honest. Mannerisms that can bother me when she sings in English, Italian and French (although I am a fan in spite of it all), I did not notice in the Tchaikovsky.

        • Cocky Kurwenal

          Agreed -- would love to have seen her Tatyana, the DVD is fabulous, and the final scene is just electric.

        • antikitschychick

          ITA she was fabulous in that. Onegin, Rusalka, The Marschallin, Rodelinda & Desdemona r her best roles dramatically speaking imho.

          Also, to address armer’s point about JDD’s “wholesomeness”, I think she has proved herself capable of transcending that through some of her role assumptions like Maria Stuarda and the role she played in Enchanted Island because she is the type of performer who serves the character rather than have the character serve & elevate her. Furthermore, I think the best actors are those who are able to bring certain characters to life regardless of whether they can relate to said character and their particular circumstances, so what she’s like in ‘real life’ bears very little indication of what she is capable of onstage imho.

          Simply put, she isn’t afraid of letting the nasty out and committing to all the dimensions of the character, which is something RF and a lot of other singers aren’t able or willing to do.

      • quoth the maven

        Would someone please explain to me the difference between “acting” and “singing”?

  • Quanto Painy Fakor

    Sound like it’s some sort of tit for tat marketing to put concert performances of Giovanna d’Arco on at other theaters. As long as LA Opera does not lose money on this potential snooze fest it’s probably fine.

  • Quanto Painy Fakor

    I wonder how many people Maestro Domingo will draw at his concert in Berkley’s Greek Theater this weekend.

  • antikitschychick

    oh I’m sure she sounded good operadunce but this is not a role that is about pretty singing, at least not all the time. I’d love it if, for instance, Previn transposed it and Joyce would sing it. She’d be electric in this sort of role!!

    I should clarify though that I dont wish to bash on Renee but I just think a role like this would be better served by a singer with keener acting chops. JMHO.

    • operadunce

      A-Chick, I know you’re not bashing. But your comment sounded to me as though you hadn’t seen the opera. All I meant was you should see it first. If I’m wrong and you did see it, forgive me. I think the opera, as well as the performance of it, should be viewed on its own terms. We don’t expect every tenor who sings Otello to be Laurence Olivier,…or do we? LOL. And, I’m not sure I see Joyce in the role. Anna might be interesting though.

      • Porgy Amor

        We don’t expect every tenor who sings Otello to be Laurence Olivier,…or do we? LOL.

        Nope. However, one famous tenor’s portrayal elicited an admiring quote from Olivier. I’ve read variations in the wording, but the version I can find now is (to Zeffirelli) “You realize that Domingo plays Othello as well as I do, and he has that voice!”

        I recently watched for a second time the Muti/Salzburg, and agreed, again, with the review recently posted here: Antonenko has a lot of living to do with the role. It was five years ago, so he may already have improved. He was wooden and callow in ’08, though. From the dramatic perspective, this was strictly L’incoronazione di Popsy. Whatever else she can or cannot do, she is an operatic actor of rare skill and sensitivity, really as good on stage as anyone I’ve ever seen.

        Fleming was interviewed about Previn’s opera by a non-fan (of her singing generally and her Blanche specifically), Sam Staggs, in his book about A Streetcar Named Desire, titled When Blanche Met Brando. She came off well there, I thought, very clear-headed and thoughtful. I have never seen the opera.

        • Camille

          HahaHA! L’incoronazione di Popsy. Best line I have heard here for a while. TY for that.

          As far as Renee goes, she looks great in that photo. Let her do what she likes. She’s earned it.

        • dr.malatempra

          Perhaps a comment or two from someone who actually saw her in the original SF production…three times, would be moderately interesting. In fact, she was absolutely riveting, vocally, physically and dramatically. Plus, I say this as no great fan. In fact, her Louise in SF was one of the great snooze fests ever presented there. When Sam Ramey asking “what the soup of the day is?” will be the highlight of the evening, you know its been a long night. But, that does not take away from her brilliant work in Streetcar.

          • Camille

            So THAT’S why that Louise never made it to the Met/NYC area! That really disappointed me so much as I had always wanted to see this roman musical. Tant pis pour moi.

          • la vociaccia

            I enjoyed her tremendously at Carnegie Hall this past spring in Streetcar. I wasn’t expecting a Cate Blanchett level of depth, and so I was pleasantly surprised at how sympathetic her Blanche was, and yes, she can still ravish with that voice. It’s a difficult role- not particularly heavy but full lyric and it hangs up top from the very beginning. She has to pull out high Cs during her opening dialogue with Stella, for example. It is interesting to think of other sopranos who could pull that tessitura off- Opolais has a pretty easy top…

            FWIW, I left feeling very moved.

        • Camille

          I stopped laughing long enough to read the rest.

          I concur with your opinions of both Mme. Poplavskaya as actress and about Mr. Antonenko’s, as yet, limit as an actor, insofar as I was able to deduce from his Muti conducted appearance with, what? Chicago. That is now a season or two ago and I do hope he finds the fire in the belly to really do it up with the madness it requires.

          With that thought in mind I will be watching his Pollione in the upcoming belcanto fest with great interest. He’ll be singing the Prince in Rusalka next year, but that is all about HER!

          • Indiana Loiterer III

            I thought Beczala was singing the Prince in Rusalka.

            • Porgy Amor

              He is, at the Met. I thought maybe Camille meant in Chicago or elsewhere, but I do not seen a Prince on Alek’s schedule.

        • grimoaldo

          What a shame that Popsy’s histrionic skills are denied to the Moscow Arts Theatre or similar theatre company where you don’t have to, you know, sing.

      • antikitschychick

        ok point taken about seeing the perf live. I admit I’ve only seen some clips on yt, but based on those it just looked like she was singing (well) and not trying to act at all. Unfortunately I’m not in the LA area so I prob won’t be able to see this live…although I do think there’s a DVD available?

        The reason why I suggested Joyce is because Blanche has sort of a nervous breakdown at the end and Joyce does nervous breakdown gloriously as evidenced by her mad scene performance in Handel’s Hercules. Truly thrilling stuff.

        • armerjacquino

          I can’t see DiDonato as Blanche at all- she radiates a kind of wholesomeness which is totally at odds with such a vulnerable, neurotic character. I take your point about HERCULES but I think a baroque mad scene is a very different beast from the disintegration suffered by Blanche.

          If only Previn had written it sooner- there are so many great American sopranos who would have been wonderful casting: Steber, Moffo, Ewing, Vaness…

  • Gualtier M

    Listen, Blanche isn’t supposed to be a spring chicken and this might be a fine sort of Fedora or Adriana Lecouvreur type vehicle for a diva d’une certain age. You know a role that keeps her center stage, doesn’t push the voice uncomfortably, sits in the right range most of the time and depends on acting or the projection of stylized persona. Okay so the music is semi-trash, so be it. Also, Renee was rather too pink and wholesome and still in her prime time when she first did the role in San Francisco. Now that she is older and more decadent it will suit her better.

    Actually, Lee Hoiby wrote a rather stageworthy operatic version of “Summer and Smoke” which starred soprano who later turned dramatic actress Mary Beth Piel. The role of Alma Winemuller would suit Renee very well and so would the vocal writing.

    • antikitschychick

      ” Also, Renee was rather too pink and wholesome and still in her prime time when she first did the role in San Francisco. Now that she is older and more decadent it will suit her better.”

      ROFLMAO. Your use of adjectives is wildly entertaining Gualtier and I totally get what u mean btw ;-).

      • I cannot imagine being any pinker than Fleming is here unless she for some reason is going to create the title role in an opera about a lobster.

        • Gualtier M

          “Ambrogio Maestri “is” Divine and Renée Fleming in the greatest role of her career as “Lobstora”! In the sinsational new opera by Rufus Wainwright! “MULTIPLE MANIACS”!

          • Batty Masetto

            I closed my eyes for a minute and suddenly thought I was listening to Nadja Michael.

          • laddie

            GM: Your comment and subsequent video I believe is the funniest thing I have ever read/seen on Parterre. At least in the running.

        • MontyNostry

          Pink, perhaps, but she ain’t never going to be decadent.

    • While La Cieca is the last person to insist on slavish adherence to printed stage directions, it should be noted that Mr. Williams does take the trouble to specify the ages of his leading characters:

      “Two men come around the corner, Stanley Kowalski and Mitch. They are about twenty-eight or thirty years old…”

      “Stella comes out on the first floor landing, a gentle young woman, about twenty-five…”

      “Blanche…. is about five years older than Stella. Her delicate beauty must avoid a strong light…”

      Now, obviously, you aren’t going to have available a lot of 30-year-old actresses who have both the reputation and the chops to play Blanche. But it should be noted that Jessica Tandy was only 36 years old when she created the role (playing opposite Marlon Brando, 23, and Kim Hunter, 25) and Vivien Leigh was 37 when she made the first film version. That’s the same age Kate Winslet and Reese Witherspoon are right now. (If you were to cast Blanche strictly by age as indicated in the script, you’d be talking about the Anne Hathaway/Emily Blunt cohort.)

      • armerjacquino

        Specified ages can be a tricky thing. I was in a production of THREE SISTERS where Olga was, as specified by Chekov, 28. Times have changed: it just seemed odd and dissonant to hear her say ‘I’d marry anyone who asked me now’ etc.

  • Quanto Painy Fakor

    Dame Janet looks great for her fawning interviewer

  • La Valkyrietta

    Time is no magician. No matter how old Renée is or is determined by the make-up department to be, she can never be Vivien, thus she will never be the timeless Blanche.

    • Gualtier M

      I was out of town for the Carnegie Hall iteration of “Streetcar” this past March. However, a friend who went said that Renée’s hothouse artificial way of singing -- her innate “insincerity” as he put it -- was perfect for Blanche. Blanche is basically a fabulist (“I don’t want reality, I want magic!”) who is making up reality as she goes along. And Renée’s whole style captured that perfectly. I didn’t see it, so I can’t make any definitive statement here.

      Also, Blanche is a beaten-down alcoholic, so even if she is “30” (though the script hints that she is older in the scene with Mitch -- that she lies about her age). She needs an “older” more worn vibe that is more in line with a 40ish (or glamorous 50ish) woman of today. Remember the difference between the 38 year old Bette Davis of the late forties and Anne Hathaway and Reese Witherspoon today who barely look 30.

  • operaassport

    “Her delicate beauty must avoid a strong light.”

    In regards to Fleming, unintentionally hilarious!

  • La Valkyrietta

    Sorry, Renée’s style generally escapes me. For example, I think she could never remotely approach Betty Blackhead in Der Rosen. Maybe I am too old fashioned and the modern sensibilities pass me by unnoticed. Waiter, another Old Fashioned please! :)

  • rysanekfreak

    I have seen Renee in Rusalka, Herodiade, Louise, Arabella, Rosenkavalier, Streetcar, Dangerous Liaisons, Traviata….

    The only one that had me cringing in discomfort was the Traviata.

    Rusalka, Arabella, and Rosenkavalier had me in Seventh Heaven.

    • parpignol

      I think I’d go further and would add: Donna Anna, Contessa Almaviva, the Corigliano Contessa Almaviva in Ghosts of Versailles (a wonderful role for the young Fleming), a really great performance of Tatiana at the Met opposite Hvorostovsky, and beautiful performances of Desdemona over many years but as recently as last year!

      • La Valkyrietta

        I did not see Rusalka, enjoyed it on radio, but must admit her Rosenkavalier did not make my coffee percolate, neither her Manon. Her Thaïs, give credit where due, was half decent, but Armida, please! Yes, I would definitely agree her Traviata was not for the ages…

        • CwbyLA

          I agree about her Traviata in general but when I saw her at the Met, her second act duet with Hvorostovsky was simply divine.

      • antikitschychick

        Yes the two Contessas you mention were also great roles for her. The Donna Anna, (based on yt evidence) I found to be a bit underwhelming imo.

      • CwbyLA

        I’d like to add Armida from Pesaro, obviosly not the latest Met performances, as well as Alcina although Handelians may not prefer her way singing the role.

        • MontyNostry

          Talking of guilty pleasures and Armida …. The fun starts at 1’30”

          • semira mide

            Not that Callas did everything better, but this defines “Armida” ( the role, not the opera) for me

          • Her coloratura is so catchy, I love it.

        • semira mide

          Interesting that you mention Renee’s Pesaro Armida. A few weeks ago in Pesaro I was discussing next summer’s Rossini Opera Festival where Armida is on the program.

          I mentioned that I was looking forward to finally hearing a decent performance and people were genuinely surprised ( obviously not having heard the Met broadcast or HD) that Fleming hadn’t been wonderful in it. Apparently those that heard her in Pesaro still have memories of a magnificent performance.

          • A. Poggia Turra

            semira -- I attended the ROF ten times in the 1990s and 2000s- during that time, one could go to the Casa Rossini (his birth house) and watch archival video tapes of ROF performance back to the beginning of the festival (single camera, filmed from a fixed position). Would you know whether this is still possible?

            • semira mide

              Oh my, you must have experienced some interesting performances! Would love to hear more some time.

              Indeed, in the basement of the Casa Rossini they have been showing archival video of ROF performances. Every summer seems to be a little different.

              The last two summers they also had concerts at fortress, Rocca Costanza, which were followed by screenings of more recent ROF performances ( no fixed cameras,HD, etc) for a very modest entrance fee ( including a light buffet supper) I was too busy to notice if they were doing it this summer.

          • Her Pesaro Armida is one of my favorite recordings. She was a very powerful Armida back then.

    • Fidelia

      I have never seen Renée live but must admit that the various DVD’s and Met Live in HD’s that I’ve seen with her have usually found me snoozing by the middle of the 2nd act.

  • Dolciamente Pipo

    This selective adherence to stage directions is, you have to admit, kind of funny.
    Still, I don’t think the comparison quite holds up since 30 was a lot older in 1947 than it is today.

  • Patrick Mack

    La Renée came to Los Angeles to sing Traviata in our sad, bus and truck, production at record setting prices for LA Opera. She wore the Met costumes. I saved over $300. by waiting 6 months and buying the DVD!

    • Porgy Amor

      I like that DVD, although the Flemingisms I happily noted were subdued in the Met Onegin have returned like the swallows, and Conlon gives her too much rope by half — “cooperative” conducting. It’s still my favorite of the note-complete ones I have seen. (I also like Ciofi/Carsen in the Urtext version and the Tokyo Scotto with the traditional cuts. Not, for me, Anna or Ange.) Bruson’s performance even in his seniority is very moving in the LA. He replaced Hvorostovsky late, didn’t he?

      • Patrick Mack

        Indeed, Dimi was the originally scheduled Papa. I’m interested in the Carsen. I like his work most of the time. Thanks for the recommendation. I think that Met Onegin is white hot. One of my favorites.

  • Porgy Amor

    Previn should write a Williams/Leigh sequel for Fleming based on The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone. Vittorio Grigolo can take the Warren Beatty role, with a better accent (“How old are you? Feefty?!”) Now we just need to cast the Lotte Lenye role, the procurer of gigolos, and we’re all set. I wonder if Stratas would come out of retirement.

    • Camille

      Let’s start a petition to Stratas, NOW! Perfekt!

      Just a Grigolo is also Perfekt!

      • Porgy Amor

        When I wrote that, I was trying to be funny, but the more I think about it, it’s actually a good idea. Mrs. Stone would be a great role for Fleming! And if the opera were good enough to be revived once in a while, the Contessa (the Lenya part) could turn into one of those great scenery-chewing opportunities — lots of “presence,” limited singing — for beloved superannuated divas. Accented English a plus, even.

        I would also have suggested a star cameo for Domingo as the husband who dies on the plane at the beginning, but after his recent pulmonary embolism, I didn’t want to push the boundaries of taste.