Lyric Soprano Goes from Opera to Rock

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Renée Fleming, lyric soprano better known for performing on the stage of the Metropolitan Opera than for growling while cavorting around a dark city, has shocked fans of both genres by turning out a rock album called Dark Hope. General consensus is that it's something less than stellar. Here's a sample of what folks are saying, and a sample of the album itself.

  • Is This Imitation as Art?  The New Republic's David Hajdu thinks that might be the best way of viewing it: "Fleming, a singer with masterful command of a rare instrument, places her voice in her throat and her head, in the rock style, and draws on the bottom of her range." As a result, she "succeeds at producing a legitimately non-legitimate sound, falling short technically only in the precision of her intonation. She is not sloppy enough for rock. More significantly, Fleming is so focused on manipulating her equipment to replicate a sound that is foreign to her that she adds nothing of her own to the music."
  • Something Slightly More Sinister  At The Awl, Seth Colter Walls and Zachary Woolfe candidly discuss the album. Zack comments that many view Fleming as "the June Cleaver of opera." Adds Seth, "A June Cleaver who wants to also be a Vogue cover girl, weirdly?" Zack agrees: "Right. She is now going for June-Cleaver-As-MILF." Another highlight:

Zack: ... I was explaining to my friend yesterday that if Sleigh Bells is for dancing, and Justin Bieber is for having sex, this Renee album is for going through menopause.

Seth: Oh man.

Zack: Comforting! Empowering! Vaguely melancholy! Vaguely hopeful! (“DARK HOPE”!) It's the album equivalent of "The Lovely Bones."

  • For Opera Crossover, Not Bad  The New York Times' Jon Pareles points out a couple typical downfalls of opera singers going for a pop sound, and decides that "[i]n the end Ms. Fleming treated her rock hymns as an idiom that required certain authentic performance practices, and she learned them. She got friendly with the microphone, turning the songs inward instead of projecting operatic melodrama." He thinks it's a good start. "Ms. Fleming’s next step is figuring out how to sound, now and then, just a little less serious about it all."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.