Photo credit: Melanie Buford/NPR
On January 27th, two of operas greatest women, soprano Renee Fleming and mezzo-soprano Susan Graham, took to the stage together, as they have many times in the past, to perform an all-French recital at Carnegie Hall in New York City. These two women certainly did more than practice to get there; they have earned their right to perform on this prestigious stage. Though I couldn't be there in the audience to see the performance live, I did have the great pleasure of tuning into the streaming audio online that evening. The fabulous Bradley Moore (pianist, vocal coach, and guest conductor at the Metropolitan Opera) collaborated with them at the piano, adding beautiful support, color and shape to the already exquisite repertoire they selected.
A perfect mix of duets and solo melodies, and even a solo piano piece for Mr. Moore (can you believe this was his first time performing Debussy's Clair de lune), the recital was a true gem, for singers, and all musicians, and French enthusiasts alike. What impressed me most, aside from the flawless interpretation, diction, and character, was that both Graham and Fleming took turns speaking to the audience in between pieces. They gave the listeners historical background on the composers, poets, and the performers who originated or who made popular many of these songs, as well as shared funny stories and anecdotes. One of them, a funny memory about a corset mix-up, which Fred Child aptly clarified as Susan Graham receiving Renee Fleming's underwear in the mail! These dialogues made the recital a very intimate, personal event. Even listening over the webosphere, 360 miles away, I felt like I was a part of the evening. My room here in Rochester was (almost) transformed into a French salon in La Belle Epoque, and for a moment I felt a bit like Owen Wilson in Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris, who longs to go back in time and brush elbows with the great writers and artists of the era (Hemingway, Stein, Picasso...) Ah, to be alive in the good old days!
Personal favorites of the evening included Fleming's "Beau Soir" (does anyone sing it better?) and Grahm's entire Reynaldo Hahn set, especially "Le rossignol des lilas". These will definitely be on my "to-do" repertoire list for when I'm done with my degree recital (April 19th!).
If you missed the live stream, tune in here at WQXR's archive. Happy listening!
About this blog
Occasional musings, interesting finds, and inspiration from an aspiring mezzo/yogi.