Artificial flower

That “Age of the Diva” soprano, Renee Fleming, swept into Los Angeles last weekend to lay down video tracks for her upcoming DVD of Traviata. Los Angeles Opera cleverly captialized on the public’s interest in America’s Sweetheart by selling high-priced tickets to the taping, calling the event a “gala opera performance.” We will of course have to wait for the DVD to see how it all turned out (and La Cieca’s breath is already bated!), but at least one critic was less than bowled over. Muses the LA Times’ Mark Swed,

. . . what’s to be done about Fleming? She is renowned for her beauty — of voice, of appearance. At 47, she retains both. She gives a lot, yet the audience receives little. Her every move onstage feels overly motivated. Portraying a courtesan, she wears 19th century gowns with grace, but she seems to hide behind them . . . . ultimately, Fleming seemed slave to her glossy beauty of tone and confined by her corsets. What would happen if she put herself in the hands of a powerful director who cut through the plastic?

Oh my! Well, at least Fleming had the wit (and the clout) to veto the company’s 1920s update of the Verdi classic, insisting on traditional hoopskirted garb. After all, those jazz age frocks might have looked a little unflattering, unlike, well…

But Placido always does things in such a big way! I mean, how many other impresarios could convince Ruth Ann Swenson and Nia Vardalos to alternate as Flora?

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