Sunday, July 4, 2010

Crossover Standard: Renee Fleming's Dark Hope

Crossover is a term used in the music business that refers to an artist from one genre "crossing over" to another. Its most familiar definition refers to an opera singer taking a stab at either jazz or pop. For me, this approach has failed more often than succeeded in the history of popular music. Consider Kiri Te Kanawa's disappointing jazz album many years ago with Andre Previn, or Sting’s rather soulless Songs from the Labyrinth featuring the music of John Dowland.

For Renee Fleming, one of the finest voices to hit the operatic stage, her new album Dark Hope sets a new standard and level of achievement to which all other crossover artists shall be compared. This is a thoughtful record of songs from new bands such as Muse ("Endlessly") and Arcade Fire ("Intervention"), with more familiar songs from Peter Gabriel ("In Your Eyes") and Leonard Cohen ("Hallelujah"). The music works for two important reasons: she sings in her own speaking voice and she took the time to prepare each song with a trusted producer. Clearly this was the way to go for Fleming, now 51 years of age, to inspire her in new ways beyond the regular schedule of opera performances. Her producer, David Kahne, wanted to create an album linked by her voice, rather than song selection, consequently what we hear is rather seamless; something akin to a euro-pop or dream-pop sound. And while that may not challenge my ears, I do find the mix irresistible.

-- John Corcelli is a musician, actor, broadcaster and theatre director.

1 comment:

  1. In 3 short minutes, "Dark Hole" explained:

    Anyone with an IQ exceeding .01 should avoid purchasing this pablum at any
    cost. It is a watered-down, quarter-baked, vapid, insincere tryout at audience-
    building and record-selling via pop/rock, condescending to an increasingly
    undiscerning public and Endlessly offensive to the remainder. But make no
    mistake: Fleming, 51-year old suburban mom and looking beyond silly in her
    hair extensions and goth handgloves, is no indie rocker. Small peanuts the album
    sounds so fake, for it is all-fake. She and her publicity people may succeed in
    fooling a few of her followers but no one else. In fact, there's Bright Hope this
    might be the case. To wit, the Fleming machinery was ecstatic two or three weeks
    back regarding this product's entry (at #151) in the Billboard Top 200. A week
    after their press emissions and it had already gone up in smoke in said chart.
    Fleming-flappers are desperately agitating everywhere to fish it out of the Dark
    Hole it's in and so the falsehood keeps circulating, chewed and swallowed by
    unquestioning journalists-turned-public-relationists. All in all, the whole scene, the whole thing reeks of fakery.