In review: Renée Fleming joins opening night at the TSO Soprano Renée Fleming with the TSO. Dale Wilcox.

In review: Renée Fleming joins opening night at the TSO

Greg Finney

Hey Schmop-Tops!

On Wednesday night, I made my way over to Roy Thomson Hall for the season opener of Toronto’s premier orchestra, the Toronto Symphony Orchestra featuring none other than Renée Fleming.

Yet again, the seating gods smiled on Schmopera, and I took my seat in the third row of the balcony on stage left. I had a great view and a great spot to listen.

The night opened with concert-master Jonathan Crow and music director and conductor Peter Oundjian taking the stage to rousing applause, and the massive orchestra opened the night with Ravel’s Alborado del gracioso. The TSO quickly showed how adept they were at encompassing an extremely wide range to tonal and dynamic colours.

Fleming took the stage for more Ravel, and brought us Shéhérazade. It was a great lesson in well calculated, natural singing. Her crystal tone sailed through the vocal line, becoming part of the overall colour of Ravel’s narrative orchestral scoring. There were no major “fireworks” - the piece doesn’t need it, but there was an honesty and Ms. Fleming came across truly authentic and genuine (#redundancyalert). The whole first half of the show had me thinking that I definitely need to listen to more Ravel than I currently do.

After intermission we came back to some rousing Rossini with TSO ripping up the overture to Rossini’s La scala di seta. Their agility and accuracy were on full display in this romp of a number. You could see and feel the audience sprung into full attention and remained riveted by the great music to come for the rest of the night.

Renée Fleming with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra. Photo: Dale Wilcox.

Ms. Fleming returned to the stage and brought a list of greatest hits. Bohème’s “Si, mi chiamamo Mimì”, “Aprile” by Tosti, and Donaudy’s “O del mio amato ben” and Leoncavallo’s “Mattinata” let the soprano show off a lot more of her range and brilliance of tone and was an excellent chance to hear a professional do their job remarkably well. She was comfortable on stage, there was no endless banter - what little talking overall that was done was tasteful, charming and most importantly, brief - and the showed flowed seamlessly and smoothly.

While Ms. Fleming prepared for her final set, the TSO took centre stage once more and shared some beautiful film music by William Walton from Olivier’s film Henry V. The imagery evoked was stunning and the balance and beauty of tone was another highlight of some really fabulous music making on the stage at Roy Thomson.

Ms. Fleming then brought us some American classic musical theatre by singing three tunes from The King and I. There’s something about hearing a well-seasoned voice singing music they grew up listening to and loving that is so endearing and inspiring.

It was by no means a night of major vocal fireworks - there were a few, just a lovely concert, EXTREMELY well-sung and played that really left you feel the artists’ appreciation and love for making and sharing music. And THIS is why we do it.

After three encores that included a sing-along of “I Could Have Danced All Night” and “Summertime”, her third encore closed the show with a touching and soaring rendition of “O mio babbino caro”. The ovation went on for what seemed like several minutes and people were reluctant to leave their seats.

Thank you to Renée Fleming and the TSO for opening the music season off in-style and with a bang!

Here’s to 201617!

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