For Soprano Renée Fleming, High Notes Still Ahead

Photo by Andrew Eccles

Renowned soprano Renée Fleming joins Music Director Ludovic Morlot and the Seattle Symphony for Opening Night on September 16.

By Andrew Stiefel

Renèe Fleming is looking to the future.

Early this year, an article in the New York Times shook the opera world with a headline heralding the renowned opera singer’s retirement. But Fleming says she has no plans to step away from the stage.

"I never said that I was stepping away from the opera stage for good. Never, never, never did I say that to anybody," Fleming told NPR Classical’s Tom Huizenga in a follow-up story.

The occasion for the controversy was her final performance in the Metropolitan Opera’s production of Richard Strauss’ Der Rosenkavalier, a role Fleming does intend to leave behind. "Unfortunately the repertoire for my voice is mostly written for young girls,” says Fleming. “So even if my voice can still sing these roles really well, it doesn’t really make sense in the day of HD broadcasts.”

Instead, Fleming says she intends shift her focus to collaborating with composers to create new operas, and new roles. She is also looking forward to continuing her active schedule of recital and concerts, including an appearance with Music Director Ludovic Morlot during the Seattle Symphony’s Opening Night Concert and Gala on September 16.

The People’s Diva

One of today’s most celebrated singers, Fleming brings a unique combination of glamour and accessibility to her performances, earning her the title of “the people’s diva.” For many people, she was their first introduction to the world of opera through her performances in The Lord of the Rings movies, at the Super Bowl and on David Letterman’s Late Show.

Fleming has always sought to carve her own path, one that often sought to transcend the confines of the “opera diva” stereotype. Today she is an advisor-at-large for the Kennedy Center, where she is spearheading a multi-disciplinary program examining the effects of music on the brain, known as Sound Health. And her recordings offer a tantalizing glimpse of what the artistic future might hold for her. 

The program with the Seattle Symphony on September 16 includes several works that appear on her most recent album, Distant Light, which blends music by American composer Samuel Barber with songs by Icelandic singer-songwriter Björk. It follows another album, Dark Hope, which includes covers of indie rock titles from Arcade Fire, Death Cab For Cutie, Muse and other groups.

“I am thrilled to be returning to Seattle, where I have always found a warm welcome,” says Fleming. “I’m bringing a very wide-ranging program that takes advantage of the remarkable versatility of Maestro Morlot and the Seattle Symphony.”

In addition to music by Barber and Björk, Fleming will perform some of her Italian repertoire, including two songs by Tosti and Refice that were classic concert pieces at the start of the 20th century.

High Notes Still Ahead

So what lies ahead for Fleming? In addition to her work with the Kennedy Center, she is also a creative consultant to the Lyric Opera of Chicago and to Polyphony, a group bringing together Jewish and Arab children through music. Later this season she’ll make her Broadway debut in a revival of the Rodgers and Hammerstein classic, “Carousel.”

“When you start out, the ambition is powerful, and it’s a driving force, and you have a lot to accomplish to get there, just to get to the top,” Fleming told Jeffrey Brown during an interview with PBS. “And, at this point, I think it’s a really wonderful place to begin to think about, OK, what do I want to do now? How do I want to spend my time?”

Experience the magic of Opening Night with Renée Fleming and Music Director Ludovic Morlot on Saturday, September 16!

Get Tickets

The festivities continue with the Opening Night Gala, honoring Dale and Leslie Chihuly for their significant contributions to the Symphony and the Seattle community. Enjoy dinner and dancing as we kick off an exciting new season!

Reserve your Gala package online or call Special Events Manager Zoe Funai at 206.215.4868.

Posted on September 8, 2017