Spectacle: Elvis Costello With...

Season 1 Episode 9

Renee Fleming

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Aired Wednesday 9:00 PM Jan 28, 2009 on Sundance Channel
7.1
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Episode Summary

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Elvis' eclectic interview/performance show goes highbrow this week as he welcomes the internationally acclaimed opera star Renée Fleming to Spectacle. The famous soprano regales the audience with inside stories about the colorful and demanding life of a big-time opera diva. According to the Sundance website, she provides "detailed insight into the rigors, demands and sacrifices involved in taking the human voice to the unnatural (but exhilarating) levels required in opera". Ms. Fleming performs a versatile range of numbers : including a Puccini aria, a jazz piece with guitarist Bill Frisell and an old Appalachian folk song. Opera fan Rufus Wainwright even turns up to "sing something special for Renée!"moreless
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    • TRIVIA (1)

      • Song List

        All This Useless Beauty (Written by Elvis Costello)
        Performed by Elvis Costello (Guitar/Vocal)

        Vissi D'Arte (Written by Giacomo Puccini)
        From the opera Tosca
        Performed by Renee Fleming (Vocal)
        Gerald Moore (Piano)

        L'Absence (Written by Berlioz)
        Performed By Rufus Wainwright (Vocal)
        Gabriel Kahane (Piano)

        Answer Me, My Love (Nat King Cole-Written by C. Sigman/G. Winkler)
        Performed by Renee Fleming (Vocal) and Bill Frissel (Guitar)

        In The Pines (Traditional)
        Performed by Renee Fleming (Vocal) and Rufus Wainwright (Vocal)
        With Elvis Costello (Guitar/Vocal), Kate McGarrigle (Vocal) and Bill Frissel (Guitar)

        The Scarlet Tide (Written by Elvis Costello/T-Bone Burnett)
        Performed by Rufus Wainwright (Vocal) and Renee Fleming (Vocal)
        With Elvis Costello (Guitar/Vocal), Kate McGarrigle (Vocal) and Bill Frissel (Guitar)

    • QUOTES (6)

      • Renee: The most important distinction between us and other kinds of singers is that we're not amplified. There is no microphone on stage at the Metropolitan Opera, and it's a house that seats 4,000 people and we sing over an orchestra.

      • Renee: It's a hugely expensive art form. You know, we have the backstage … the expense of the productions, the orchestra, and we only seat … two to four thousand people, so ticket sales are definitely not going to cover it. There's no huge tour and … only recently … are there these HDTV broadcasts which are in local theatres, movie theatres all over the world and that's really making a huge difference - that's outreach.

      • Renee: And my goal, as a singer, is to make the audience actually forget that I'm singing. If I'm doing my job right, if you're so involved in the story, that later on you think "That was an opera …". Even through the foreign language, 'cause I sing in eight foreign languages, not including two versions of Elvish from The Lord of The Rings.

      • Renee: My favorite opera story of all time is actually from Tosca … which is that … the director, there was no time to rehearse, and the had a whole new group of supers, which are extras, and he said : "You're soldiers. You follow Tosca. You just completely follow her till the end of the act." Well, Tosca jumps off the parapet and commits suicide. So, sure enough, she jumped off and they all followed her, 20 guys …

      • Elvis: I once saw a production of Don Giovanni at a very famous festival in which the Queen scandalously attended at the Royal Opera House unaware … where the Don was whipping half-naked women, you know, it had gone that far in order to make a novelty … and there is something to that in … some productions are guilty of coming up with something.
        Renee: Oh … that's nothing, that's nothing …
        Elvis: That's nothing?
        Renee: In Europe now, no, there' a real trend for … it's sort of extreme, ultimate vulgarity, ultimate shock for opera and what happens is that audiences say "Did you hear about that horrible production?" "Yes, do you have your tickets?" You know, the curiosity wins out in a way.

      • Elvis: People's image of you as a singer at the Met is a completely urban … of the urban environment, the sophisticate …
        Renee: Well, the tradition too of being an opera singer … being in classical music in general, is a European, Western European tradition, and what I like to say is that I'm American - and I grew up hearing all kinds of music. First of all, any of us who come from a choral tradition have learned a lot of the Appalachian folk songs which originated, most of them, in the U.K. - and have all kinds of different versions depending on where they were from.

    • NOTES (2)

      • Answer Me, My Love was originally co-written with a German lyric by Fred Rauch (Mutterlein). A version with English lyrics by Carl Sigman (Answer Me) was recorded by David Whitfield and Frankie Laine in 1953, with both versions rising to the top of the British charts. However, the song was soon banned by the BBC due to complaints about its "religious" content ("Answer me, Lord above..."). In response, Sigman rewrote his English lyric as Answer Me, My Love, addressing the lost lover directly. The new version became an even bigger hit in the U.S. when recorded by Nat King Cole in 1954. The song has been performed in concert by Bob Dylan and recorded many times, most recently in 2000 by Joni Mitchell on her album of jazz standards, Both Sides Now.

      • This Week's Guest Musicians

        Bill Frissel (Guitar)
        Gerald Moore (Piano)
        Gabriel Kahane (Piano)
        Kate McGarrigle (Vocals)

    • ALLUSIONS (0)

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