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RETRO: Renée Fleming Duets with Lou Reed on "Perfect Day" for 20th Anniversary of Czech Velvet Revolution

By Louise Burton on Nov 08, 2013 03:58 AM EST

The late Lewis Allan Reed and the Velvet Underground influenced not only a generation of rock musicians, but also the late Czechoslovakia-cum-Czech Republic president Václav Havel. And that was why Reed got the invite to perform with soprano Renée Fleming at a 2009 event celebrating the anniversary of the Velvet Revolution (which will see its 24th starting on November 17).

Fleming recently posted a video of this performance on her Facebook page as a tribute to Reed, who passed away on October 27. She included the message: "We will all miss this creative, influential artist."

The clip below shows Reed and Fleming singing together a symphonic version of Reed's Transformer hit "Perfect Day" for an audience including Havel, Madeleine Albright and other international luminaries.

Although Reed, himself, never quite branched out into what we'd call "classical," as Brian Wise of WQXR noted upon Reed's death, he was certainly an inspiration for a number of composers--especially Classicalite fave David Lang.

In an interview with New York's Alicia Zuckerman, Lang explained his attraction:

"You know, I grew up in a squeaky-clean, bookish environment, really interested in classical music. The things that classical music can talk about are all very noble, life and death and love and brotherhood. And then I got hooked by the Velvet Underground--the Andy Warhol yellow-banana record--in junior high. It was the first time that I'd ever heard anything say, 'Art is dangerous and scary, and people live lives which include crime and sex and drugs and danger and New York.'"

David Lang has written several arrangements of Lou Reed tunes, including this track seven transcription, of sorts, for cello and vocalist.

Of course, then there's that 1975 Red Seal boondoggle called Metal Machine Music.

Whereas Lamont Young [sic] got a misspelled shout-out on the original sleeve, it was German saxophonist Ulrich Krieger who went on to write out Reed's hard-panned guitar noise for traditional orchestral instruments.

As for Renée Fleming's dalliances with the darker side, apropos, we point you back to 2010's Dark Hope.

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TagsRenee Fleming, Lou Reed, Perfect Day, Velvet Revolution, Velvet Underground, Václav Havel, Transformer, WQKR, David Lang, LaMonte Young, Metal Machine Music, Ulrich Krieger, Dark Hope