Renée Fleming launches Seattle Symphony season in high style

Pablo Rus Broseta
Seattle Times

There is nothing like a grade-A, platinum-quality diva to launch an orchestra’s concert season in high style. Seattle Symphony audiences were treated to just such a launch on Saturday evening, when soprano star Renée Fleming arrived in Benaroya Hall for a opening-night concert that even had the listeners singing along (at her invitation).

This opening night was different from the usual format in several respects. First of all, the music director, Ludovic Morlot, was missing in action, having sustained a leg injury that kept him off the podium. His replacement, the orchestra’s associate conductor Pablo Rus Broseta, acquitted himself admirably in a complicated program full of bits and pieces, and one that involved the sensitive task of partnering a famous diva who might have strong ideas of her own about how the music should go. Fortunately, everyone seemed to be on the same page; the partnership worked remarkably well.

Also different: the orchestra members’ attire, with the women players wearing beautiful gowns in every color instead of the usual variations on black; the stage looked festive and dressy. Opening the program was an unannounced substitute for the usual standard version of the “Star-Spangled Banner,” in a John Williams arrangement that sneaked up on an unsuspecting audience when the “Oh say, can you see” theme emerged and the listeners straggled to their feet to sing along.

Rus Broseta conducted two brief and energetic orchestral works to start each half of the program: Samuel Barber’s Overture to “The School for Scandal,” and Verdi’s Overture to “La Forza del Destino.” The rest of the program was devoted to selections with Fleming — an unusually generous number of songs with the soloist. She turned her warm soprano to the evocative lines of Barber’s “Knoxville: Summer of 1915,” in an expressive reading that showed signs of strain only in the ending phrase (“. . . but will not ever tell me who I am”).

Read the rest of the review here