Renée Fleming is one of the most iconic sopranos of our time as she has broken the mold for what it means to be an operatic diva. On February 14, Fleming celebrates her 58th birthday and OperaWire celebrates it by taking a look at what makes Fleming such an inspiration.
Intelligence and Depth
Every time Renée Fleming approaches a role, she engages in a tremendous amount of research. Fleming is constantly reading her scores and discovering new ways to approach the music, all while seeking a deeper understanding of each character. It is for that reason that when you see Fleming on stage, her characters are always layered. As an audience member you are constantly learning from her interpretations.
Variety of Roles
Fleming cannot be pigeon-holed into an operatic category. Yes she is considered a lyric soprano and has been an expert in the Strauss repertoire. However, that has not stopped her from exploring a wide range of repertoire. She would be the least likely choice for the Bel Canto repertoire but that did not stop her from working on Donizetti’s “Lucrezia Borgia” or even Rossini’s “Armida,” which is known for its tricky coloratura. Fleming has also sung Verdi, Puccini as well as modern works from Corligiano and Previn. She has also delved into Wagner as she did Eva in “Der Meistersinger.” Interestingly she made Massenet’s “Thais” and Dvorak’s “Rusalka” signature roles and brought them back to the repertoire.
An Arts Advocate
Outside of her work in opera Fleming has always been an advocate for the arts, taking many steps toward bringing opera to a wider audience. She is the Artistic Advisor-at-Large for the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and she is also a member of the Board of Trustees of the Carnegie Hall Corporation, the Board of Sing for Hope, the Board of Trustees of Asia Society, and the Artistic Advisory Board of the Polyphony Foundation, which works to bridge the divide between Arab and Jewish communities in Israel by creating a common ground where young people come together around classical music. She is a creative advisor to AIR, the Association of Independents in Radio and she is also the first-ever Creative Consultant at Lyric Opera of Chicago, where she is also a member of the Board and a Vice President. Outside of her work in music she is also an advocate for literacy and has been featured on the READ campaign.
A Fashion Icon
Renée Fleming has not only inspired audiences around the world but has also inspired fashion designers to create some of the most iconic gowns in the opera world. Most notable was her 2014 Super Bowl gown which was later donated to the Smithsonian Museum and her opening night gala at the Metropolitan Opera, which saw three fashion designers create a variety of gowns for the performance. Fleming also created a perfume, “La Voce,” and was also the face of Rolex for some ads.
Fleming has reinvented her image several times. Not only has the soprano been the toast of the operatic world for some time but she made her Broadway debut and scored rave reviews. She also recorded an indie rock album which experimented with her voice and she was the first operatic singer to perform at the Super Bowl. She was also been invited to perform at the Nobel Peace ceremony as well as the Queen’s Jubilee and at the Olympics. Additionally, Fleming has also performed Jazz songs.