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Gerald Carpenter: Peerless Soprano Renée Fleming Will Give Matinee Recital at UCSB

Renée Fleming

Mega soprano Renée Fleming is coming back in town, returned to us by the grace of UCSB Arts & Lectures, to offer a recital at 2 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 28, 2016, in Campbell Hall on the university campus.

Backed by pianist Gerald Martin Moore, Fleming's official program will consist of the eight songs from Robert Schumann's song cycle Frauenliebe und -leben, Op. 42 (1840), based on the poems published in 1830 of Adelbert von Chamisso; five songs by Sergei Rachmaninov ("O dolga budu ja/Silence of the Secret Night," "Ne poy, krasavitsa, pri mne/Sing to me no more, beautiful maiden," "Rechnaya lileya/Water Lily," "Sumerki/Twilight" and "Vesenniye vodï/Spring Waters"); five songs by the contemporary jazz composer, pianist and vocalist Patricia Barber ("Higher," "Scream," "Hunger," "Morpheus" and "You Gotta Go Home"); four songs by Richard Strauss ("Das Bachlein," "Ruhe, meine seele," "Allerseelen"  and "Zueignung"); and three songs from The King and I ("I Whistle a Happy Tune," "Something Wonderful" and "Shall We Dance") by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II.

I say "official" because, as demanding as this program is, encores remain a possibility.

This is a genre-buster of a program, obviously, but I venture to predict that when Fleming is through with it, the disparate composers represented therein will seem like harmonious siblings.

She has an uncanny ability to channel a composer's inspiration, regardless of the temporal or geographical coordinates of the work. The soul of the music is transmitted in a pristine state. She hears things in a score that others do not.

(I will remember all my life her rendering of Alban Berg's Seven Early Songs, which I heard standing at the rail that curves around behind the last row of seats in the Arlington balcony.

I own several recordings of the work, which I have always loved, but it was as if Fleming had broken through the shell of Berg's reputation — the "Second Viennese School" business — to liberate the gorgeous and mysterious music within.)

The songs of Schumann, Rachmaninov and Strauss are the bedrock elements of this recital, familiar enough to please without introduction, rare enough to sound new and living.

The Rogers and Hammerstein tunes have a fair amount of precedent. Kiri Te Kanawa recorded an album of Gershwin tune. Eileen Farrell made an album of blues. A great singer like Fleming may claim all songs for her own.

As a performer (pianist and singer), Patricia Barber (b.1955) is in the tradition of Nina Simone, giving brilliant, shimmering and highly personal renderings of familiar songs.

As a song-writer, she is something else. Her haunting, jazz-based songs sound as if they were written to accompany the paintings of Gustav Klimt. They move and fascinate in equal proportion. 

Renée Fleming will also lead a masterclass of UCSB students, presented by Arts & Lectures and the UCSB Department of Music, at 12 p.m. Monday, Feb. 29, in the Lobero Theater. Admission is free. 

Tickets to Fleming's recital concert are $55-$125 for the general public; $20 for UCSB Students (current student ID required), and they can be purchased from the Arts & Lectures box office at Campbell Hall (805.893.3535), or online at artsandlectures.sa.ucsb.edu.

— Gerald Carpenter covers the arts as a Noozhawk contributing writer. He can be reached at [email protected]. The opinions expressed are his own.


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