Renée Fleming

Soprano

Schubert Club Performances:

  • April 20, 2001
  • February 23, 2005
  • October 7, 2010
  • October 5, 2016

“The People’s Diva”

When Renée Fleming made her Schubert Club debut, she’d already been dubbed “the people’s diva” for her unique combination of glamour and accessibility. Fleming followers who might never experience her in opera had seen her on David Letterman’s late-night TV talk show, heard her as the ditzy diva Renata Flambé on Minnesota Public Radio’s Prairie Home Companion, been haunted by her voice on the soundtrack of Oscar-winning movies, watched her become the first opera singer to deliver the national anthem at the Super Bowl, and maybe even seen her on Broadway, playing against type as another high-strung diva (she’s actually among the least temperamental of classical singers). Born to two music teachers near Pittsburgh, raised in upstate New York near Rochester – where she would later train at Eastman before moving to Juilliard – Fleming started out as a jazz singer. While still an undergraduate, she was urged by the famous saxophone player Illinois Jacquet to tour with his group. She declined the offer but throughout her classical career has programmed jazz numbers, as in this Tokyo recital:

Renée Fleming has also been labelled “The Beautiful Voice” – conductor Georg Solti confessed in a recording session: “I am having a love affair with Renee Fleming’s voice.” Hear it in the “Song to the Moon”, from Dvořák’s opera Rusalka, which Fleming – of part-Czech descent – has made one of her signature roles. This performance conducted by Jiří Bělohlávek was filmed in Prague at the 20th anniversary concert of the “Velvet Revolution”, with Vaclav Havel in the audience as guest of honor:

Fleming sampled much of her broad repertoire in several Schubert Club programs, including Berg’s Seven Early Songs. She sang the composer’s later orchestral version at the 2007 BBC Proms:

St. Paul also heard Rilke settings made for her by jazz pianist-composer Brad Mehldau, an aria from André Previn’s opera A Streetcar Named Desire, in which she created the role of Blanche Dubois in San Francisco in 1998, and lieder by Erich Wolfgang Korngold, composer of another Renée Fleming signature piece, “Marietta’s Lied” from Die tote Stadt. She performed that aria at the 2009 Metropolitan Opera Gala:

Artist note by Richard Evidon

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