For two months, Renée Fleming’s “Dark Hope” has been in my CD player. I don’t listen to it every day, but I come back to it every few days just to check. Yep, I like it. I actually like it a lot. If you don’t know who Renée Fleming is, shame on you! She is currently the leading soprano in many Metropolitan Opera productions and is one of the most recognizable American sopranos in the world. Her new CD, “Dark Hope” is not an opera recording. It is not a classical recording. It is, in fact, a pop/rock recording. From recent hits like Band of Horses’ “No One’s Gonna Love You” to classics like Peter Gabriel’s “In Your Eyes," this album is unlike any other Fleming album.
Let’s start with the voice. I don’t need to tell you what an amazing, luscious, rich voice Renée Fleming has. Click here to see her doing her “day” job! And even in this musical setting, her tone does not lose it’s luster. Fleming made a very smart decision by keeping her pitches either on or below the staff. Anything above the staff would have put her right back into a classical style sound, but her deep chest voice makes a big impact on these songs. Often, her voice is unrecognizable in these tracks, but not in a bad way. If I were to be able to pick up on any heavy vibrato or a big resonating sound, I wouldn’t have been able to listen to this. In fact, once I forgot for a moment who was singing, and I liked it even more!
Next, onto the songs. I’m not going to lie, if you are a hardcore fan of any of the original bands, you aren’t going to like this. But, if you are an open minded listener who often appreciates remakes, I really suggest you give it a try. “Dark Hope” is not a karaoke remake CD. With producer David Kahne, Fleming reworks each of these songs to give them a new life of their own. One great example of this is the last track on the CD, Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.” We have all heard plenty of remakes of this song, but I really do like Fleming’s version much more than the rest.
Finally, the look. Yes, I care about the look and pictures on the CD cover and liner notes. If you can get past the extensions on the front cover, I promise you’ll like the rest. I get it. She needs to look edgier than her traditional CD covers (which, by the way, are GORGEOUS). She’s got a bit of a Stevie Nicks vibe happening on the front cover, but turn the CD over and there is a beautiful femme fatal. Yes, I do have a bit of a girl crush on Renée Fleming.
In closing, I really enjoyed this CD, if nothing more than for the fact that it proves what I have been saying all along. Versatile singing is good singing. There is no reason to limit yourself to one style of singing if you are able to address more than one style of music. So long as you are singing in healthy technique, as Fleming obviously is, you can literally sing any style of music, and should.
Also, I did not write this review as a shameless ploy to meet Renée Fleming. I tried that in 2006 and failed miserably. I attended a recital she put on in Iowa City and stood in line after the concert to get her autograph and say hello. This is how it went down: It was my turn to meet Renée. I stood in front of her table and handed her the CD I brought along for her to sign. Then, my voice turned off, my knees started to shake and I was, for the first time in my life, completely star struck. She looked at me like I had one eye, obviously confused as to why this girl standing in front of her couldn’t seem to open her mouth. “What’s your name?” she asked. Somehow I mustered up the courage to say, “Cindy.” In a daycare sort of voice she continue, “And are you a singer?” She said it in slow motion just in case I had the brain capacity of a five year old (which at that moment, I did). “Uh huh,” was my response. I know, pathetic. That was my moment to tell her what an inspiration she has been to me. How I strive to train my voice like hers, to sing the literature she sings, to learn the roles, even how her early years in jazz influenced my teaching of versatile singing. But no. The only words I could say to her were Cindy and uh huh. Maybe one day I’ll get the opportunity to meet her again. I think I’ll put on a pair of Depends just in case!
Please check out the CD soon and let me know your thoughts!