Just as I was dropping off to sleep, I happened to catch “Renée Fleming: Sacred Songs and Carols" on PBS. She was just starting on Schubert’s “Ave Maria” with the Latin text. (It was written with a German text, and is occasionally even performed that way.) This totally worked for me.
Renée has discovered that anything can be a pop song. It was something I didn’t understand in my youth that the greatest singers are those with the most easily identifiable idiosyncrasies. Renée has something going with her pop song phrasing that she uses almost all the time now, which makes for a very relaxed and evocative style of singing. She is keeping it loose, and this looseness also enhances the beauty of her voice. Renée is an American singer, and her best work will always show her American soul. This is where music comes from. My soul is American, too, and it speaks to me.
This loose, pop song style isn’t going to work equally well in all types of repertoire. It is too sweet and precious for “Silent Night”, for instance. Renée has a sophisticated soul which cannot achieve the true simplicity of "Silent Night."
Anything can be a pop song. Most Handel arias, it turns out, can be pop songs. Most of the time in her fabulous Handel album it works perfectly, but occasionally she keeps this loose style going even in pieces that are much more serious and intense than the style allows, resulting in an unpleasant tension.
I woke right up for her “O holy night”, a song I have loved since I sang it in high school. This style, the Renée Fleming style, is perfect for this song. She is becoming more and more herself.