Welcome to ‘Women Who Make Me Touch Myself’! This is the first of a monthly series in which I will talk about female opera singers & one of their albums that make me all hot and bothered. And, really, is there any singer besides Ms. Fleming that should start such a discussion? (Well if you’re one of those people, Ms. Callas may be the one, but I digress…)
As “the people’s diva,” renowned soprano Renée Fleming continues to charm audiences throughout the world with her superb vocal intelligence, exquisite musical grace, and voice of “liquid gold.” Her artistry has taken her to the world’s capitals and great opera houses, captivating audiences everywhere she goes. On September 22, 2008, the Metropolitan Opera celebrates her in their Gala Opening Night —an evening starring this beloved singer. Additional appearances at the Metropolitan Opera this season are in Massenet‘s Thaïs and Dvorák’s Rusalka. Over the past few seasons, Ms. Fleming has begun hosting many broadcasts, including the Met’s HD series for movie theaters as well as television, and “Live from Lincoln Center” on PBS. In fall 2008, the perfume company Coty launches La Voce by Renée Fleming, her first ever fragrance with the proceeds benefiting the Metropolitan Opera.
Following a triumphant set of June performances of Capriccio, the Vienna State Opera welcomes Ms. Fleming back in October 2008, followed by November performances of Donizetti’s Lucrezia Borgia at Washington National Opera (conducted by Plácido Domingo), Massenet’s Thaïs at the Metropolitan Opera in December through January 2009, and a return to the Metropolitan Opera in March for performances of Dvorák’s Rusalka. Additional appearances this season are at galas for the symphony orchestras of Edmonton, Portland, and Milwaukee, as well as European tours with Orchestre National de France and Orchestre de Paris. Ms. Fleming’s 2008-09 season concludes with performances of Verdi’s La traviata at Covent Garden’s Royal Opera. A master of recitals, she appears this season at noted venues across North America, including Rice University, Vanderbilt University, Denison University, Boston’s Symphony Hall and Toronto’s Roy Thomson Hall, among others.
A two-time Grammy winner, Ms. Fleming’s most recent CD, Strauss: Four Last Songs, conducted by Christian Thielemann, was released in fall 2008. In 2007, Decca released two DVDs featuring Renée Fleming: Los Angeles Opera’s production of La traviata and Metropolitan Opera’s HD Live Eugene Onegin. Her last CD recording, entitled Homage – The Age of the Diva, was released in fall of 2006 and is comprised of rarely-heard works associated with legendary singers of the past. In recent years, this nine-time Grammy nominated artist has recorded everything from Strauss’ complete Daphne to the jazz recording Haunted Heart, to the movie soundtrack of The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King. Her recording honors range from the 2006 Echo Award for Strauss’ Daphne to the Prix Maria Callas Orphée d’Or by the Académie du Disque Lyric for TDK’s DVD production of Capriccio.
Renée Fleming’s artistry has been an inspiration to many other prominent artists, such as Chuck Close and Robert Wilson, whose portraits of her were included in the Metropolitan Opera’s 2007 fund-raising auction. Two portraits of Ms. Fleming were also created by Francesco Clemente, who displayed the work at Salzburg’s Easter Festival in spring 2007, with the Metropolitan Opera displaying the other in 2008. Among her numerous awards are Sweden’s Polar Prize (2008); the Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur by the French government (2005); Honorary Membership in the Royal Academy of Music (2003); and a 2003 Honorary Doctorate from The Juilliard School, where she was also commencement speaker.
As a musical statesman, Renée Fleming has recently been sought after for numerous distinguished occasions, from the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize ceremony honoring Nobel Laureate Muhammad Yunus, to the 2008 Nobel Laureates Conference in Jordan, as well as appearances at Buckingham Palace for Prince Charles.
An advocate for literacy, Renée Fleming has been featured in promotional campaigns for the Association of American Publishers (Get Caught Reading,) and the Magazine Publishers of America’s READ poster campaign for the American Library Association. She was honored by The New York Public Library as a “Library Lion.” Her book, “The Inner Voice,” was published by Viking Penguin in 2004, and released in paperback by Penguin the following year. An intimate account of her career and creative process, the book is also published in France by Fayard Editions, in the United Kingdom by Virgin Books, by Henschel Verlag in Germany, Shunjusha in Japan, and by Fantom Press in Russia.
In addition to her work on stage and in recordings, Renée Fleming has represented Rolex timepieces in print advertising since 2001. Master Chef Daniel Boulud has created the dessert “La Diva Renée” (1999) in her honor, and she has inspired the “Renée Fleming Iris” (2004,) which has been replicated in porcelain by Boehm. Having been added to Mr. Blackwell’s best dressed list in 2001, her gowns have been designed by Gianfranco Ferré, Issey Miyake, Bill Blass, Vivienne Westwood, Angel Sanchez, Oscar de la Renta, John Galliano, Christian Lacroix, and Karl Lagerfeld.
Ms. Fleming is currently a member of the Board of Trustees of the Carnegie Hall Corporation and of the Advisory Board of the White Nights Foundation of America.
In her self-titled album, she does all 19th-century arias, sticking to Italian operas – mostly Puccini – but also including arias from Massenet’s Manon, Bizet’s Carmen, Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette and the rarely done (especially in French) Verdi Les vêpres siciliennes.
While we all know that Renée Fleming is phenomenal, this album is amazing; she nails all of the arias. All of them have the traits they need and nothing less. Above all, they all have finesse, which is more than we can say about some of her colleagues. [cough] Juan Diego Florez [cough] Everyone loves Butterfly‘s aria Un bel di, but my favorite on this album is from the Verdi. She puts an E-natural at the end that is unlike any I’ve ever heard. Note: Ms. Fleming is the only soprano I know to go to the e-natural. On a humorous note, my friend and I have decided that she took one day and just recorded the end of that aria. So, the day went like this: “…notes, a few measures before the note…high e-natural. Ok guys, lets go home.” Also, If you look at the album cover, it essentially says, “Hi, my name is Renée Fleming and do you know what is underneath this mirror-like object? Well bitches, it’s an E-natural!”
Below is a youtube version of this track. Enjoy!
For more information about Ms. Fleming, go to her website: www.reneefleming.com