Tag Archives: Renée Fleming

LIVING ON LOVE is Laugh-Out-Loud Funny

Operatoonity.com review: Living on Love, a new Broadway comedy in association with the Williamstown Theatre Festival
Live performance: Saturday, April 25, 2015; 2 p.m.
The Longacre Theatre, 220 West 48th Street, NYC
Written by: Joe DiPietro
Based on the play: “Peccadillo” by Garson Kanin
Director: Kathleen Marshall
4.5 out of 5.0 stars




Fleming and Sills in Living On Love, a new Broadway show

Fleming and Sills in #LivingonLove, a new Broadway show, with canine co-star Puccini

Maestro Vito De Angelis is a fiery egomaniac of a conductor with a wandering eye. Raquel De Angelis is a cunning operatic soprano who craves the limelight. The diminishing fortunes of this aging professional couple have reduced them to the prospect of living on love rather than basking in the wealth and fan adoration they enjoyed in their prime. The De Angelises’ marriage is in dire trouble—and the audience loves every second of their suffering.

Opera fans will adore Living on Love. However, even the opera-uninitiated will also have a rollicking-good time, perhaps without fully understanding all the inside jokes: the La Boheme-inspired doorbell chime; the Tweedledum and Tweedledee-style butlers who like Patty and Cathy Lane (of Patty Duke show fame) laugh alike and talk alike, and even walk alike while warbling operatic snippets from opera war horses such as The Barber of Seville; Raquel’s pet Pomeranian named “Puccini,” who dons an over-the-top Aida headdress while lolling in the arms of her doting mistress.

Living on Love is one solidly clever comedy, full of endearing running gags and brimming with crack shot comic performances.

Soprano Renée Fleming as fading diva Raquel De Angelis

V Soprano Renée Fleming is utterly charming as fading diva Raquel De Angelis

The show is set in New York in 1957, during a time when Leonard Bernstein is becoming a household name, much to the consternation of the Maestro played with hilarious pomposity by Douglas Sills, whose once-shiny star is dimming with each accolade of rising supernova Bernstein. The play opens with a recording of Maestro’s recollections slated for his memoir, including his confession that he made love to the entire humming chorus in Madame Butterfly though he has promised his wife, fading but still attractive enough to appeal to younger men, that his Don Juan days are over.

Douglas Sills as the Maestro

Douglas Sills as the Maestro, who claims to have made love to the entire humming chorus of Mme. Butterfly.

Maestro’s resigned to writing his life story, sucked in by the prospect of a hefty advance more than anything, but his temperamental ways and indulgent lifestyle caused him to burn through a half dozen of the publisher’s best ghost writers. As our story opens, Maestro’s tormenting the next ghost writer Little Brown sent over, Robert Samson, played with masterful spinelessness by veteran actor Jerry O’Connell. When diva Raquel played by opera great Renée Fleming returns home early because her international tour is cut short, and because money is in short supply, she decides to write a memoir, too.

Douglas Sills and Jerry O'Connell

Douglas Sills and Jerry O’Connell

Let the games begin.

Living on Love Longacre Theatre

Jerry O’Connell and Anna Chlumsky

Raquel stages the seduction of O’Connell’s gutless author for the sole purpose of enraging her philandering husband, who has laser-focused his libido on his new ghost writer, a spunky junior editor played with moxie by My Girl and Veep star Anna Chlumsky.

The legendary Fleming, America’s reigning soprano, looked absolutely scrumptious whether adorned in Carmen’s scarlet flounces or Kitty-Carlisle apricot chiffon, and endeared the audience by poking fun at her and her notoriously tempestuous ilk. The audience savored every note of the tiny bit of operatic singing she did during what is essentially a straight play that is merely music infused.

Renée Fleming, set to seduce, with Anna Chlumsky looking on

Renée Fleming, poised for seduction, with Anna Chlumsky

Fleming moves with elegance and grace–her presence fills a room. Her comic timing was surprisingly effective considering that she reigns the domain of operatic song. However, the actors cast around her were so stellar—pitch perfect delivery and expert comic timing at every turn—that she was at times outschooled by the Broadway veterans.

In this production, the men absolutely stole the show, from Douglas Sills’ side-splitting running gags (“shiny boy”) to his goofy hairstyles—whether coifed by maple syrup or inspired by Beethoven’s 5th—to Jerry O’Connell (aka “shiny boy” himself), who gave an unforgettable performance as the tortured ho-hum American novelist.  How anyone can be so attractive bear-chested as O’Connell and still be painfully  insecure can only be a testament to his extraordinary acting skills.

"Makin' Whoopee"

Scott Robertson and Blake Hammond (l-to-r) whooping it up while the bosses are preoccupied & “Makin’ Whoopee”

Last but certainly not least was the comic duo of Blake Hammond and Scott Robertson as the stiff-upper-lip butlers who let loose when the master and mistress of the Manhattan pied-à-terre were otherwise occupied. Their “Making Whoopee” vocal and piano duet brought down the house. And there’s nothing anyone can do about it.

All of the production values one expects to see in a Broadway comedy were in abundance—superior set design and décor, elegant costumes, inspired sound effects, foolproof jokes. Credit director Kathleen Marshall for instilling a winning esprit de corps among her troupe and mining comic touches and sight gags at every possible turn.

Living on Love Longacre TheatreThis is a charming show that succeeds without sequined roller skaters, creepy phantoms, or jaw-dropping sets flying in from the wings at warp speed. When it comes to Broadway, in this reviewer’s humble opinion, superior comedic writing, solid directing, and great acting still trump spectacle.

Tickets are available at the show’s website. You can also follow the show on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram. Find out more about the show by googling #livingonlove.


1 Comment

Filed under music and humor, Reviews, sopranos

best opera singers in the world today – female persuasion

As promised, here are the female artists that a discriminating, opera-loving group of Twitterers suggested as the best women performing today. Now, as I mentioned when I posted the men’s list, I was seeking a list of opera greats who are not just living but are performing and can still “cut the mustard,” as Stephanie Brooke said.

So that’s why you don’t see opera great Jessye Norman on this list. Nor do you see promising up-and-comers such as Latonia Moore, Ailyn Pérez (whom I just saw in Opera Company of Philadelphia’s Romeo and Juliet and reviewed very favorably), and Amber Wagner.

Unable to find an already published list from which to draw, this USA Today article naming the best stars of the 1990’s was too old, I created my own, with a little help from my friends.

Anna Netrebko will sing Anna Bolena for the Met in 2011-12

Besides being recording favorites, some of the singers such as Cecelia Bartoli and Anne Sofie von Otter are frequently enjoyed in live recitals. For a wonderful write up of Anne Sofie von Otter’s New York recital, see this post at Opera Obsession. Others like Angela Gheorghiu might be has-beens next year if they keep pulling out of Met productions. (Was her nose bent out of shape because images of Anna Netrebko as Anna Bolena appeared to dominate the marketing collateral for the Met’s 2011-12 season?)

So, what do you think? Have I included your favorite(s) in the list below? If not, please feel free to include in the comments.

– Cecilia Bartoli, Italian mezzo-soprano

Olga Borodina

– Olga Borodina, Russian mezzo soprano

– Sarah Connolly, British mezzo soprano

Fiorenza Cedolins, Italian soprano

– Diane Damrau, German lyric coloratura soprano

Annette Dasch

– Annette Dasch, German soprano

– Natalie Dessay, French coloratura soprano

Mariella Devia, Italian soprano

Joyce DiDonato, American mezzo soprano

Renée Fleming, American soprano

– Angela Gheorghiu, Romanian soprano

Anja Harteros

Anja Harteros, German soprano

– Magdalena Kožená, Czech mezzo-soprano

– Aleksandra Kurzak, Polish coloratura soprano

– Waltraud Meier, German dramatic soprano

Anna Netrebko, Russian soprano

Patricia Racette

– Patricia Racette, American soprano

Sondra Radvanovsky, American soprano

– Dorothea Röschmann, German soprano

– Rinat Shaham, Israeli mezzo soprano

Nina Stemme

– Nina Stemme, Swedish soprano

Anne Sofie von Otter, Swedish mezzo-soprano

Don’t forget to check out the male singers identified as the best in the world today.

And thanks again to the lively informed Twitter “opera” community for their recommendations!


Filed under 21st Century Opera, Audience participation, Best of Operatoonity, Performers, Poll

“best of” countdown #6 – dying to wear a ball gown?

(first published June 20, 2010)  

Whenever I think of  La Traviata, I think of Violetta’s gorgeous gowns. If opera companies do Verdi’s potboiler in period (and that is an if, by the way), operagoers expect to be wowed by Violetta’s lavish costumes and are seldom disappointed. 

Anna Moffo as Violetta--Wow! What a gown!

Some of the loveliest gowns I’ve found hail from contemporary and not-so-contemporary productions.  The University of Princeton Library Archives has some stunning photos of some of the greatest divas of all-time (perhaps some of your favorites) as Violetta. All I can say to that little .edu link is, “Ooh, the divas. Ahh, the gowns.”       

If you’d like to don one of these, all you have to do is get contracted to sing Violetta for a major house with a major production budget, like Renée Fleming in Covent Garden’s La Traviata, 2009.       

Renée Fleming as Violetta (photo credit: Alastair Muir)

Oh, one more little thing. You have to know how to sing Verdi.        

Oh, and one more little detail . . . you have to die at the end of the story . . . but you’ll look exquisite for a few shining moments.       

A moment of silence, please, for more gorgeous Violetta gowns that are probably hanging in storage.  How many gowns are sitting idle as I write this, heaven only knows. (Too many.)    

WNO favorite Elizabeth Futral

Here are two more contemporary photographs of Violetta gowns, one from the Washington National Opera’s 2008 “ultra-conventional but visually lavish” La Traviata featuring Elizabeth Futral and the other of Madeline Bender, when she was touring the United States with Teatro Lirico.   

Madeline Bender as Violetta, Teatro Lirico

And now, the pièce de résistance, a decades’ old photo of Renata Tebaldi as Violetta, 1957.       

Renata Tebaldi as Violetta


Filed under Best of Operatoonity, Classic Opera, Performers

Renée Fleming–pop star or just bizarre? why not ask Richard!

If it’s Tuesday, then it’s time to ask Richard Rohrer, fictional opera expert featured in my comic novel DEVILED BY DON, a question about opera.       

Today’s question is topical–about a new release of popular tunes by Renée Fleming.       

Dear Richard,       

I read an article in The New York Times yesterday about Renée Fleming’s new album called “Dark Hope,” on which she covers a bunch of independent pop-rock tunes. So, what do you think? Is this the kind of thing one of our reigning opera divas should be recording? My interest is…       

Piqued in Pennsylvania       

Dear Piqued,       

Dr. Richard Rohrer, opera expert


After listening to about four tracks on this release, I will tell you, without equivocation, that this album will be long forgotten because in my estimation (and mine is the only one that matters on Tuesday), it has no audience.       

Sadly, the opera faithful won’t like it because everything that they admire about Renée Fleming’s singing–her power and majesty, range, color and depth–is missing from these tracks. Listeners who love a good pop music voice won’t find one on this recording. Whatever that elusive quality is that makes a good popular recording artist, well, Ms. Fleming just doesn’t have it. Her voice sounds strained, like it’s being pressed into a mold for which it’s far too rich and voluminous.       

She may have had fun making the recording and learned some things about herself. As for its commercial appeal, it has none, in my estimation. I have no doubt some opera stars can make this crossover. But for Ms. Fleming, it was a risk that did not pay off.       

I would have loved to have been a neurosurgeon. Alas, I became a dermatologist because that’s where I could best use my gifts and aptitude. If Ms. Fleming wasn’t able to see that her gift isn’t as a pop singer before she made this album, by God, someone should have told her.       


Filed under Character from DEVILED BY DON