Cher Public


All right, so Renée Fleming says she’s not retiring from opera at the moment, and who should know better than she herself? But can someone please explain why in this interview (right after the jump), less than seven months ago, she seems to imply that, in fact, she is leaving opera behind? 

A person less charitable than La Cieca might be forgiven for harboring the suspicion that the luminous mother of two has been trying to have it both ways, i.e., to whip up the excitement of an operatic farewell, meanwhile indicating that she might just possibly be amenable to being asked for more.

  • Olivero Fan

    You’re acting as if Mme Fleming would be the first diva to have an extended farewell. She’s earned it.

    • La Cieca

      No, I am acting as if Mme. Fleming hinted broadly at leaving the operatic stage, then sat and listened while interviewers asked questions about what she would do after her retirement from opera, without correcting their misapprehensions, and then suddenly is shocked, shocked when people think she’s retiring.

      In other words, Fleming can make as long a farewell as she likes, but it’s not fair to the press or to her public to behave in a manner that seems so disingenuous.

      • Olivero Fan

        Wow, you are taking this very personally. Not fair to the press?How horrible. I’m sure her public is happy to hear that there may be future opera performances.

      • Ivy Lin

        It’s not disingenuous. She says clearly that she won’t be singing the roles with which her fans have become accustomed, like Marschallin, etc. She’s leaving the door open to future projects that might interest her. “Disingenuous” is more like Jonas Kaufmann being billed for a NP of Tosca and canceling almost immediately after the announcement (but not before a bunch of people might have bought subscriptions to see him).

        Fleming is just saying she’s not closing the door to future operatic appearances but they won’t be in “her” roles. For the people who have enjoyed her in Strauss over the years the Der Rosenkavaliers will be the last chance to hear her sing it.

      • CwbyLA

        La Cieca’s unhealthy obsession with Fleming is really off putting especially in this instance. Yes, maybe she is trying to have it both ways. So what? #resist

  • Porgy Amor

    I literally “remade page one” in the Rosenkavalier piece the morning I sent it to you, changing what I had there (a reference to her likely final performances in staged opera) to the hedge about “conflicting reports.”

    Here is her February 2016 quote in the Telegraph:

    “[Opera is] physically demanding and time-consuming,” she says. “I’ve done a great deal of it over my career, and I don’t want anyone saying that I sang such-and-such a thing better five years ago. So I’ve decided that Rosenkavalier at Covent Garden and the Met next season will be my last mainstream opera appearances. It’s not retirement – I might be tempted by something newly written, but I’m not going to cling on. There’s plenty else I want to do.”

    Then there was this in the Financial Times in December:

    I remember being at Elisabeth Söderström’s farewell at the Met, which was also Rosenkavalier, and I was crying along with everybody else. Then a few years later she came back [as the Pikovaya Dama Countess, actually 12 years later]. So this is something I have learnt from my colleagues. Never say ‘never’!”

    She has been consistent in saying that it’s more of a matter of leaving behind her signature roles and things parallel to them. No more Marschallins, Madeleines, Rusalkas, Thaïses, Desdemonas. The sort of things always identified with Fleming, people should not expect anymore, because she doesn’t want to compete with herself…or with sopranos in their prime who also sing those roles. But if someone writes an age-appropriate, vocal-estate-appropriate new role for her, she’ll be open to it.

    What I had trouble with was in her denial of the NYT story, she said, “There’s been press about this now for last couple of years floating around. I think it started with some paper in London, but it’s inaccurate.” Would that be the Telegraph above? If she’s claiming she was wildly misquoted, shouldn’t she have brought it up then?

    • La Cieca

      Fleming has an in-house PR department. If they are not correcting wrong reporting about their client, then they need to be fired.

      Or else they need to resign in protest over their client’s blaming her weasel words on other people.

  • questocor

    Retirement implies that she is not going to work anymore, but the thing is that Fleming works too much and she can’t just stop after a run of Rosenkavalier at the Met. What’s going on is that she’s not going to continue to repeat her signature roles in the major opera houses of the world, but she is open to singing concerts, recitals, and new works.

    • La Cieca

      I clearly said “retiring from opera” so concerts and recitals are irrelevant.

      I’ll believe the “new works” when I see them. The earliest she could perform in a new opera would be sometime after she turns 60, which sounds just this side of impossible to me.

      • Porgy Amor

        Anne Sofie von Otter (another name from Rosenkavalier Week) will be creating the role of Charlotte in Autumn Sonata this fall, with Sunnegardh in the Liv Ullmann part. She also sang a a role in the then-new Exterminating Angel not long ago. She’s in her early sixties.

        • Camille

          Excuse me, but where would that be happening? There was a similarly intriguing sounding opera made from the movie Notorious (the Hitchcockian Bergman/Grant/Rains spy-Nazi-war vehicle) in Sweden--was it Stockholm?--a couple seasons ago and starring nonetheless than Nina Stemme.

          I never heard anything about it and have wondered how it all went down, as well, is there a tendency to fashion new operas from old Ingrid Bergman films afoot? And specifically in Sweden?

          Just curious. There is no one here who regularly reports from Scandinavian
          countries and without reading Swedish,
          well, it’s hard to know much.

          • Rick

            Highlight of the season
            The world premiere of a Finnish opera is always the highlight of the season. Höstsonaten – Autumn Sonata is the meeting of a story by cinema legend Ingmar Bergman and the music of Sebastian Fagerlund, one of the most highly acclaimed Finnish composers of his generation. Gunilla Hemming adapted a libretto from Bergman’s film of the same name, reflecting on human choices, hidden conflicts in families and the possibility of forgiveness. The role of Charlotte in this opera was written for Anne Sofie von Otter, one of the most celebrated mezzosopranos of our time. This will be von Otter’s first appearance in an opera role in Finland.

            YLE will record and broadcast Autumn Sonata on YLE Teema and online at It will also be streamed on The Opera Platform.

            Recommended for children over the age of 12.

            Starring Anne Sofie von Otter, Erika Sunnegårdh, Tommy Hakala, in September and October 2017 in Helsinki (

          • Porgy Amor

            Excuse me, but where would that be happening?

            Finnish National Opera, September/October 2017, composed by Sebastian Fagerlund.


            A more recent interview with ASvO, in which she discusses it.


            I was a little vague on the details myself, as I read all of this some months ago. Fortunately, it was there for revisiting with a Google of “Autumn Sonata opera.”

          • Porgy Amor

            is there a tendency to fashion new operas from old Ingrid Bergman films afoot?

            Possibly a tendency to fashion new operas from old Ingmar Bergman films as well! Now I wish someone would do Cries and Whispers.


            • Camille

              My vote goes for The Virgin Spring,
              (Set in Italian and in belcantista style) with Persona featuring Evelyn Herlitzius and Nina Stemme in hot Expressionist pursuit.
              Just think about it a while.

              And--If Ingrid Bergman and Ingmar Bergman had ein Kind--it’s name would be…? Ing-BOT.

          • Camille

            Okay. Thanks fellows
            Sorry to bother you when I coulda googled it meself but thought there might be an eye witness to it all.

            Supposing this Finnish opera will be sung in Swedish as I don’t suppose
            von Otter et al. are adept in Finnish.

      • questocor

        She is apparently talking with Los Angeles Opera about a “new role” in a “new production”. I think it could happen given Fleming’s recent history with LA Opera. She sang a surprise Streetcar Named Desire here and a concert with Domingo. Also, LA Opera does new works every season so this seems possible to me.

        • La Cieca

          Yeah and I’m apparently talking to Channing Tatum about his being my date for the prom.

          • No, I am!

          • questocor

            No you’re not and that’s the difference. I don’t think Fleming has to tell lies.

            • La Cieca

              You must share more of your insider psychological insights.

      • Rick

        Wasn’t Domingo over sixty when he sang in Il Postino?

        • La Cieca

          Your comment would make perfect sense if Domingo were a lyric soprano who had given up all other opera two years before then.

          • Rick

            Touché, Cieca, although, strictly speaking, the problem is not that my comment does not make sense (it does, as it is a statement of fact that is completely correct), but rather that it’s relevance is very limited to the matter being discussed ????

            • La Cieca

              Touché to you too! I should have said “would apply” or some such.

            • Rick

              Don’t mind me -- like all lawyers I like to say things that are hundred procent correct, even if they sometimes ARE useless (c;

  • Ivy Lin

    She is clearly retiring roles like Capriccio, Rusalka, Marschallin, Arabella, etc. And those are the roles the Met would put on for her. So for NY audiences who have followed Ms. Fleming through the years, this IS a de facto farewell. She’ll continue to do concerts and recitals and what not.
    And plus, if the role is right, why not sing it? She’s not closing the door to further opera appearances.

    • Porgy Amor

      She claimed in the NPR piece to have Met plans in 2019, but it has to be a recital. I mean…Kathleen Battle “sang on the Met stage” recently.

  • Parpignol

    voice sounded lovely at the Rosenkavalier dress rehearsal; remarkable preservation of tone; and still forceful enough where she needs to be; beautiful in first act; opening of the trio was stunning--

  • Lindoro Almaviva

    I can see the ambiguity accusation but from the start, what I got all those months ago, was that she was severely curtailing her appearances in opera, basically retiring all her current roles and only working on select projects that really interested, specially new music and stuff that was written for her.

    Based on what I got from the initial announcement to what is being said now, I do not see much of a change. I can see the confusion, but I am not sure she is the source of it.

    Just my take

  • Liz.S

    Apparently something happened in Tokyo!
    I was imagining the convo bet. Mr. D and her when I read this one :-D

  • Camille

    Perhaps it’s only just that something in her personal life has come about in these last seven months which has caused her to alter some of her plans?

    And perhaps she means well enough but without a crystal ball cannot say absolutely and definitively what she will be doing in the near future as things DO occur to alter the best laid of plans, as we all must know.

    However, it is a fact she will be giving a recital in Carnegie Hall in October 2017, of new music commissioned by Carnegie Hall and as written for her by the composer Caroline Shaw.
    Indicating something of an interest in promoting contemporary works.

    Perhaps she is doing the best she can and that’s all there is to it. There’s always a consultation with Madame Arvidsson which might be advisable ….

  • Ivy Lin

    And it’s not like unretiring is a new thing. Who can ever forget this?

  • Donna Annina

    Last July, we attended Fleming’s master class at Aspen.. She proved to be an excellent teacher, attentive and genuinely interested in helping each student improve, even in a brief time period. She’d make a great coach.

  • rhinestonecowgirl

    I have always preferred her operatic work to her often embarrassing excursions into musicals, where she so often overdoes the portamento and the parlando. This effort from the Dresden New Year concert should not have made the DVD