The sheer graft that Renée Fleming puts into her career is awe-inspiring. She sings in eight languages, and performs jazz and pop as well as opera. She never wants to give her audiences anything less than an A-grade performance. But, in art as in life, you don’t always get marks for effort.
That truism becomes more and more apparent in this concert of little-known operetta arias and familiar Broadway showtunes, performed with tenor Klaus Florian Vogt. The main plus is Fleming’s gleaming sound, which brings a note of creamy luxury to numbers like ‘You Should Be Kaiser of My Soul’ by Robert Stolz. (And don’t you just love the title?) The minus lies in the over-enunciation, the over-colouring of every word, and the over-telegraphing of every emotion. Like the game trooper she is, she wants to give you all she’s got. But less, as they say, is more. Her effort turns into effortfulness, and that’s a major no-no in the breezy worlds of operetta and Broadway.
Klaus Florian Vogt does a much better job and conjures up an atmosphere of bittersweet nonchalance in his numbers, which include the delightful ‘Ich bin nur ein armer Wandergesell’ (‘I’m only a strolling player’) by Eduard Künneke. He’s not quite so idiomatic when he steps into English for ‘Maria’ and ‘Tonight’ from West Side Story, but then you can’t have everything.
The best work on the disc comes from conductor Christian Thielemann and the Staatskapelle Dresden. They combine seriousness of purpose, a polished sound, and easy spontaneity – which for performances of operetta and showtunes is surely a Platonic ideal.