Can you honestly say you’ve sung in recital with American soprano superstar Renée Fleming? Well, I have. More about my performance later. First you’ll want to know how she deployed her uniquely gorgeous voice of rich buttercream, touchingthe heart, uplifting the spirit, lofting nuanced words on the finest thread of breath to the farthest reaches of Newark’s Prudential Hall. Gerald Martin Moore, an equal partner, on piano, deftly propelled her through a multifaceted program of art songs, opera arias and Broadway show tunes.

French bonbons

Two “chansons” opened the program. Then, with the brief, gentle entrance aria from Jules Massenet’s opera “Thaïs,” Renée Fleming delicately caressed the vocal line, drenching it in aural sensuousness, evoking fond memories of her 10 performances of the opera in the Met’s 2008-09 season. (The late Beverly Sills had most recently sung the role there, in 1978.) For the occasion, Christian Lacroix costumed Ms. Fleming in striking haute couture gowns.

Simplicity v. flamboyance

Ms. Fleming first wore a black-on-black embroidered satin gown, the subtlest gold chain with tiny glimmering stones, modest gold earrings peeking through her stylish coif.

In contrast, herincandescently glittering, spontaneously combustible gown of intense, deep copperprompted applause when it came onstage with her in the recital’s second half—in ensemble with a multicolor floor-length silk wrap and proportionately bigger bling. “Something I’ve come to love,” she said, to the audience’s acclaim, “is gown applause.”

German song cycle

Robert Schumann’s “Frauenliebe und -leben” (Woman’s Love and Life) closed the recital’s first half.

The soprano shaped the score’s every subtle coloratura flourish, credibly conveyed the gamut of emotions, even managing to sing sobbing, plaintive passages without actually breaking down. It would be great to hear Mr. Moore as soloist someday. He poignantly played the cycle’s ninth song—a wordless repetition of the first—while Ms. Fleming’s face silently emoted the title woman's reminiscence on her life’s journey.

Italian jewels

The second half’s Italian set (three art songs) also included Marguerite’s aria, L’altra notte in fondo al mare (The other night, in the depthsof the sea), from Arrigo Boito’s opera “Mefistofele.” Poor Marguerite, imprisoned for allegedly drowning her baby and poisoning her mother. Ms. Fleming mournfully voiced her dilemma in heightened Italian fashion with gleaming tones that soared to the heights, then plunged into the anguished lower register. On the line “Come il passero del bosco” (Like a forest sparrow), she softlybrandished her trademark trillwarbling the word “sparrow,” mirroring Mr.

Moore’sdulcet keyboard tones.

Audience participation

Three selections from Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “The King and I” closed the formal program. Only during the show tunes did Ms. Fleming use amplification, “to keep me from singing these songs like an opera singer,” she said. In “I Whistle a Happy Tune,” she got the audience involved, well, whistling for her, after demonstrating her complete ineptness at it. Ironic, eh? Capable of such spectacular vocalism, yet she can’t whistle to save her life. Today’s sopranos—so much to overlook. “Something Wonderful,” Anna’s touching tribute to her enigmatic love interest, brought tears to the eyes.

Encores galore

Ms. Fleming and Mr. Moore regaled the ecstatic audience with three encores: Gershwin’s lullaby “Summertime” (“Porgy and Bess”); “Song to the Moon” (in Czech, from Dvorak’s “Rusalka”); and “I Could Have Danced All Night,” the vehicle of my recital debut, duetting with the soprano, albeit from my seat, and, to be completely honest, competing with 2,000 other audience members also invited to sing the second verse. But of everyone she singled me out. I could swear she mouthed the words “call me” as she left the stage.

How grand to think Renée Fleming and I are the same age, each at the height of our powers—I with quill, she with “squillo.”

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