Renée Fleming Goes Pop

Studio 360

This weekend, Rene Fleming will release her 29th album. But it isn't a new recording of a Romantic opera or a set of lieder: America's favorite soprano has gone pop.

Dark Hope features eleven covers, including songs by the Arcade Fire and Jefferson Airplane. And Fleming shows us new colors in her voice as she sings low in her range and abandons her vibrato and coloratura. You can hear the imprint of producer David Kahne, who has produced albums by Regina Spektor and Paul McCartney, among others. The album's arrangements are thick with both real and electronic instruments, along with an occasional backup chorus of Fleming's sister and two daughters.

The album is receiving a lot of attention from both classical and pop critics, though not all has been favorable: before commending Fleming for her efforts, the NY Times's Jon Pareles complained that some tracks, like Leonard Cohen's 'Hallelujah,' 'end up too plush and fussy, while Muse's 'Endlessly' teeters toward cheesy Euro disco."

But if anyone is guaranteed to like the album, it's Michael Stinchcomb. An opera aficionado and hair stylist, Stinchcomb appeared on the show in 2001 to describe his admiration for (and slight obsession with) Fleming's music.

Below is a preview of the album and a look behind the scenes.

Even if the ultra-slick arrangement style isn't for you, you'll be able to appreciate Fleming's sincerity; unlike many crossover attempts, she avoids infantilizing the pop selections by approaching them with a mindset and technique entirely separate from her classical performances. Brava.

--- Becky Sullivan

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