NEW YORK, NY – August 2009 – With well over thirty recording projects on the Decca label to date, iconic American soprano Renée Fleming is easily one of the most recorded opera singers of her generation. On September 15th, Decca proudly releases Verismo, the 15th solo album in as many years by Fleming, featuring opera arias by Puccini and his contemporaries – composers of the Verismo style who set the lives and loves of their heroines to music of extraordinary beauty and intensity.
Along with great Puccini favorites from La Bohème, Turandot, La Rondine, Il Trittico and Manon Lescaut, the album also includes rarely heard arias by Verismo composers Mascagni, Catalani, Leoncavallo, Giordano, Cilea, and Zandonai. From the tragedy of the nun Angelica, singing of the son who never knew his mother, to the rapturous young lovers of La Rondine, this is deeply emotional music of love and loss, of triumph and pain. Of the roles she portrays on this album, Mimì from Puccini's La Bohème is the only one that Renée Fleming has sung on stage. This album offers a world-premiere recording of the original manuscript version of the aria ‘Sola, perduta, abandonata!’ from the tragic final scene of Puccini’s Manon Lescaut. Star tenor Jonas Kaufmann joins Renée Fleming for an irresistible melody from Act II of Puccini’s La Rondine.
‘Verismo’ (literally ‘realism’) was an artistic movement of the late 19th-Century, which sought to bring the ‘naturalism’ of writers such as Zola and Ibsen to other art forms, including opera. Known as the ‘giovane scuola’ (‘the young school’), the Verismo composers wrote operas that were very different to those that came before them, setting stories about ‘real’ people and their real life struggles. The heroines Renée Fleming portrays include noblewomen (Fedora, Gloria, Angelica), courtesans (Stephana, Magda), Asian waifs (Iris, Liù), a Tyrolean village girl (Wally), the avaricious Manon, and three working women: music-hall performer Zazà, seamstress Mimì and factory-worker Conchita. The disc covers a concentrated period of Italian opera from the premiere of La Wally in 1892 to that of Turandot in 1926. This rich period saw the creation of more new works than almost any other era in operatic history.
Renée Fleming describes the process of choosing the repertoire for Verismo as “a revelation.” “I was surprised by the sheer volume and variety of the Italian operas from this period,” she explains, “and the intense emotionality of the music has given voice to some of the most beautiful interpretations I have ever heard.” “Listening to singers of past generations gives me a real sense of individual style, taste and imagination,” Fleming remarks, “each voice harbors a singular personality and moment in time.” Researching the arias for this collection, Fleming studied recordings by Leontyne Price, Maria Callas and Mirella Freni, the fabulous drama and lyricism of Rosa Ponselle and Zinka Milanov and finally the theatrically committed and searing performances of Magda Olivero, Mafalda Favero, Lynne Strow Piccolo, Rosanna Carteri – the singers from the earliest days of recordings who embodied these roles for the first time. “It completely stokes my imagination to think that all of these great interpreters were ‘new music’ specialists,” she adds, “that generation of singers was the last to devote the majority of its time to creating roles with living composers.”
“Above all,” Fleming remarks, “my goal with this recording is to share a broader selection from an especially rich tradition of Italian opera, so that these Verismo heroines can be heard again in all their beauty and complexity.”
Following the release of Verismo, Decca presents a DVD of Renée Fleming in one of her greatest stage roles – as the Marschallin in Richard Strauss’s Der Rosenkavalier, conducted by Christian Thielemann available October 6th. The dream cast, filmed live at the Baden-Baden Opera Festival, also includes Diana Damrau, Sophie Koch, and Franz Hawlata. This re-staging of a celebrated Herbert Wernicke production is released in time for Renée Fleming’s appearances at the Metropolitan Opera in Der Rosenkavalier from October 13th through the 22nd.