06 June 2005

Joni Mitchell unplugged

The Fleming paradox

Ever wonder how Renée Fleming's Violetta would sound like without the jazzy inflections and the swaying and sashaying around the notes? Hear her rendition of Joni Mitchell's River here (surprisingly less "jazzy" than her recent exposés on the Met stage). Ever the creative crooner/vocal magician, she transforms her silver-plated instrument yet again for a cross-over tour called Haunted Heart. This time, she does an impression of a jazz singer. The altered timbre of the voice is unrecognizable (muddy mezzo marmalade), but one can still detect the Fleming by the way each unit of sound is picked apart and micromanaged. I'm lost in the layered colors of the syllables. Words lose their integrity, phrases wilt into nothing more than a sequence of sculpted sound. If this were my first exposure to the song, I wouldn't be able to tell you what it's about. There is no pleasure here. (Let's thank NPR for the "caution." Sieglinde doesn't know about you, but she's parking her $17.98 elsewhere.)