Album Review: Renée Fleming – Christmas in New York


“I have no thought of time”

Opera star Renée Fleming has dipped her toe into non-classical repertoire before and though she was tempted to take the classical route for her Christmas album, it is to jazzy lounge music that she has turned with somewhat mixed results. Her voice remains an undoubted pleasure but the insistence on maintaining the Christmas in New York jazz clubs feel makes the arrangements all feel too similar and lacking as they are in festive spirit or a real connection to Fleming herself, it’s disappointingly nondescript.

Too often, the music just feels flat, with little engagement either between Fleming and the music, or between Fleming and her duet partners. The ever-reliable Kelli O’Hara has all her personality leached by the deadly pace of ‘Silver Bells’, the gulf in singing styles between her and Rufus Wainwright never settles in ‘In The Bleak Midwinter’, the jazz take on ‘Winter Wonderland’ sits very uneasily with both Fleming and her instrumentalists with an unusual amount of awkwardness.

Where it does work is in the two numbers with Gregory Porter – ‘Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas’ and ‘Central Park Serenade’ both showing a better vocal blend than anywhere else and a freedom of spirit on the latter in particular, a rare foray into something close to upbeat. ‘Sleigh Ride’ similarly offers a sprightly perkiness, albeit in an overextended manner, but the default mode of plodding sophistry weighs down songs like ‘Who Knows Where The Time Goes’, ‘Merry Christmas Darling’ and ‘Snowbound’. More miss than hit.

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