By Lawrence Budmen

For sheer vocal beauty Renee Fleming is in a league of her own. Fleming’s lustrous soprano voice, perfect intonation, and vibrant musicality are remarkable. Her distinctive glamour and vocal magic lit up the stage when the Concert Association presented her in a wide ranging recital on Tuesday at the Broward Center. 

In celebration of the 250th anniversary of Mozart’s birth, Fleming opened with a gorgeous performance of the Laudamus te from the Mass in C Minor. Her superb classical style and scintillating coloratura were even more impressive in the Alleluia from Exultate Jubilate which she dedicated to soprano Evelyn Lear who recently celebrated her 80th birthday. 

Fleming’s Baroque mastery infused arias by Henry Purcell. Her seamless phrasing and grand manner in I Take No Pleasure in the Sun’s Bright Beams was an object lesson in near perfect vocal technique. The real gem was The Blessed Virgin’s Expostulation. In this series of recitatives the Virgin Mary speaks in despair about the fate of her missing son Jesus. Purcell’s setting conveys a remarkable depth of emotion. Fleming made every note tell. Her soft tones were meltingly beautiful and she rose to heights of tragic grandeur. The sensitive, flowing accompaniment of pianist Richard Bado was outstanding. 

The music of George Frederic Handel has provided Fleming with some of her most noteworthy operatic triumphs. A group of Handel arias vividly demonstrated why. The quicksilver lightness of Oh! Had I Jubal’s Lyre from Joshua seemed to dance in giddy coloratura patterns. Cleopatra’s Death Scene from Alexander Balus was bathed in lava like tones. She radiated joy in Endless Pleasure from Semele – and a pleasure it was. 

Fleming’s vocal radiance and dramatic expressivity graced seven Schumann lieder. Whether in the rollicking Little Serenade, the dizzying lightness of It is Spring, or the powerful sorrow of Quiet Tears, Fleming poured forth a huge range of emotion.

Encores were generous. A Strauss lied rang out with laser like power. The Italianate lyricism of arias from Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi and La Rondine was served con amore. Summertime from Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess combined exquisite pianissimos and jazzy scat slides. Fleming’s versatility is unique. 

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