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Renée Fleming & Rob Ainsley

Met Stars in Concert

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Fleming and Ainsley in the music room at Dumbarton Oaks

THE METROPOLITAN OPERA presented the second installment of its new Met Stars Live in Concert series on August 1, with Renée Fleming and pianist Rob Ainsley offering seventy-five minutes of arias and songs streamed from the music room at Dumbarton Oaks, the historic Georgetown estate. The afternoon had the politesse of a traditional recital: the lighting was soft, the music-room decor was richly formal and Fleming was operating in full glamour mode, swathed in a handsome evening ensemble and jewels by Tamsen Z. Most of the program featured items already established as Fleming specialties in recital and on recording; everything the soprano sang showed off her lustrous tone, her formidable breath control and the firm intention of her phrasing, whatever the language. Fleming also knows how to use the camera in every moment, whether singing or speaking: all of her spoken comments created a natural, unforced bridge between the vocal selections.

The high points of the program were the arias that offered the best fit for Fleming’s signature lush, long-lined vocalism—the letter aria from Korngold’s Die Kathrin, the Marschallin’s monologue, Adriana Lecouvreur’s entrance aria and a beautifully sustained account of “O Mio Babbino Caro.” Less neatly turned were “Musette svaria sulla bocca viva,” Mimì’s playful solo from Leoncavallo’s Bohème, and “Endless Pleasure” the nymph’s giddy post-coital solo from Handel’s Semele; Fleming has abundant good humor, but lacks the unapologetic cut of real wit. The only novelty on the program was John Corigliano’s brand-new setting of Kitty O’Meara’s anodyne pandemic-themed poem, “And The People Stayed Home” which Fleming delivered a cappella, with manifest sincerity and immaculate diction.

During the breaks from song series host Christine Goerke gave enthusiastic introductions to clips from several Fleming appearances in The Met: Live in HD, cantering briskly through a formulaic script that cited Fleming’s career as both “storied” and “illustrious” within a matter of minutes. —F. Paul Driscoll 

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