Cher Public

She’s doing her own little thing

“’Her huge ambition was not just to be an opera star,’ said Matthew Epstein, Ms. Fleming’s manager from 1995 to 1999. ‘She wanted to be Beyoncé. She still does’.” [New York Times]

  • Porgy Amor

    There are some things to find fault with here: I wouldn’t describe a solo passage of the Marschallin’s as an “aria.” Eugene Onegin is not one of the several operas in which Robert Carsen has personally directed Fleming, although she appeared in a revival of his production. I think the writer overstates the case for Fleming re: getting Rusalka into the standard rep (that was a train that had been gaining steam since the ’70s, and she wasn’t even the first soprano to do it at the Met).

    But no matter, it’s a very nice profile, and I admire her as a singer and a professional. She seems to care about the art form.

    • Bill

      Porgy It was Gabriela Benackova who helped bring
      Rusalka into the Vienna State Opera and then to the Met both for the first time -- Fleming sang it in a number of revivals at the Met. It is true as it was a good role for Fleming and she aided at the Met in determining to revive the opera and keep the sets (borrowed from Vienna and used in several other USA cities). Behrens had done Rusalka in Munich even before Benackova tackled it in Vienna and Rusalka was no stranger to German opera houses or the Vienna Volksoper prior to that.

  • CwbyLA

    Why would she want to be Beyonce? Women should not be ambitious!

  • southerndoc1

    La Cieca’s gonna miss her when she’s gone.

  • WindyCityOperaman

    Going out on a limb here, but I do believe she is the last American Opera Diva, or at least the last one we’ll see for a very long time.

    • Bill

      It is not going out on a limb, Windy City -- Fleming is, at least in the USA, probably in the last decade or two, probably the most celebrated American soprano opera singer -- she seems to be a genuine person, has had success here and abroad, has a repertory which required her to sing in five or six languages, has an attractive face.
      She seems not to have been a spontaneous actress on the stage or even vocally. But she is effective in her roles and has been careful not to emit very many ugly tones even for dramatic effect The voice has been fresh and alluring but when she tries to be a Schwarzkopf, it has made Fleming a bit mannered. She sings on pitch (though has been prone to scooping) -- she seems to be warm and friendly to her
      fans -- she seems to be interested in many different types of music and does not distain singing modern works. Her name in the USA opera houses sells tickets when she is
      performing. Many of the finest lyric sopranos retire in their
      50s or at least relinquish their favored repertoire and Fleming seems to be following this well trodden path --
      judiciously dropping roles which are no longer vocally suitable. I have not been her greatest fan over the years
      but she certainly was never a singer who would keep me from going to any of her performances which I have continued to attend even if it was an opera such as
      Rossini’s Armida which did not give me the utmost
      pleasure. I remember once after a Capriccio in Vienna
      where she came out the stage door and a group of young American vocal students, all women, timidly went up to
      Renee Fleming asking for autographs and perhaps a bit of
      advice -- Fleming was ever so kind to them and spent some time talking with them with apparent genuine interest after a long 2 1/2 hours of constantly being on the stage.
      That was a sign of a true American Diva -- graciously chatting in a very natural way to a bunch of young admiring fans.

      • southerndoc1

        Excellent evaluation of Ms. Fleming. Would just add that when she aims for volume, particularly in the middle and the upper middle, the sound is frankly not pleasant. I remember when she made her entrance in the Met Pirata and slammed into the notes, my immediate reaction was “Wow, that’s the ugliest sound I’ve ever heard come from a major singer.”

      • The term Yankee Diva was coined, of course, for the great Lillian Nordica, born in Maine, acclaimed in the U.S. and Europe, a favorite of Queen Victoria and invited to Bayreuth personally by Cosima Wagner. She could sing Isolde and Queen of the Night and was reputed to be a warm and generous lady, married at various times to three very different men who done her wrong in one way or another.

        Another candidate for the title would be Geraldine Farrar, born in Massachusetts, who became the mistress of a German crown prince and later, famously, of Arturo Toscanini. She was frequently cast opposite Enrico Caruso at the MET where they were major box office stars, especially together. She also inspired a coterie of adoring young female fans who were styled the Gerryflappers. She made movies (including a very compelling acting job in a silent version of Carmen).

      • La Cieca

        “she seems to be a genuine person”

        I have always described her as “lifelike.”

    • fantasia2000

      I think you may be forgetting the (self-pronounced) Yankee Diva, Joyce diDonato! ;)

      • Cameron Kelsall

        If we’re talking strictly name recognition and crossover star status--in the Beverly Sills mode--DiDonato is nowhere near Fleming’s level. JDD strikes me as someone who is valued and perhaps even beloved within the small classical music community, but her reach is nowhere near Fleming’s.

        • southerndoc1

          Sills to Fleming to DiDonato -- diminishing returns as American culture putrfies. Barton has the talent and the personality to be next, if there is a next . . .

  • Benrenki

    She has always had this feeling: ‘I’m a carton of yogurt with an expiration date stamped on it, and that day will come and I’ll be thrown out.’”

    Manchmal steh’ ich auf, mitten in der Nacht, und schmeiss’ die Joghurt-Becher in den Mistkübel, schmeiss’ sie alle.