I am truly excited about this CD release. As a young man, I would hate to see opera becoming something grandparents talk about remembering the good old times. After all, that's how most of the opera magazines sound these days: Milanov did this and Callas did that and Vickers showed us how to, etc, etc. But, thank God, the art of opera is alive and well, and thanks to great recording technology available today we can enjoy the incredible young artists not only "picking up the torch" and "following the tradition" (which seems to be the highest form of praise in those magazines) but also inventing their own traditions and their own interpretations, which is essential if we want to see the art of opera survive and flourish. Soprano Renée Fleming has been singing major roles for quite some time before Decca finally made this release happen along with several others to follow. It almost appears as though she got her big break too late. Thankfully, that's not the case, this great singer is still in her prime and, as the three-plus years after this recording showed, she will remain on top for quite a few years to come.
This CD offers splendidly done scenes and arias from the greatest operas in five different languages of which Ms. Fleming has impeccable command. And what a treat it is to hear Sir Georg Solti at the helm providing beautiful, tactful, and rich orchestration! Ms. Fleming's voice is incredibly resonant and sensuous, simply gorgeous. (No shrieking or loud breathing whatsoever.) And her interpretations never fail to impress with passion and thoughtfulness. I have to mention that her Russian is fantastic for a non-native speaker (btw, listen to the nurse in the letter scene - it's Kirov's Larissa Diadkova). And I also absolutely have to say that Ms. Fleming is the "total package" so to speak - great voice and artistry plus phenomenal good looks. Oh yes, I do imagine her clearly as Countess or Desdemona, and even as Tatiana.
This disc also shows why she is one of the most diverse singers in the world; is there something she cannot sing and sing well? Not likely. Not only this album is an absolute must-have for anyone interested in opera, it is also a proud statement that we the young generation will also have stories to tell of great singers with whom we were fortunate to share a time period with.