Renée Fleming | Biography


Renée Fleming
“Her lower register has become ever-richer toned, yet fluid, while higher up her silken soprano remains undiminished . . . Fleming is utterly ravishing in Ravel’s Shéhérazade, and her performance of Messiaen’s Poémes pour Mi is sensational . . . Here is a singer with the sumptuousness, character and burnished luminosity this score demands. Her control at the end of ‘L’épouse’ is effortless, yet there is no holding back, with fire and steel where needed . . . Fleming is simply intoxicating.”
BBC Music Magazine, May 2012 (CD review: “Poèmes”)
One of the most beloved and celebrated musical ambassadors of our time, soprano Renée Fleming captivates audiences with her sumptuous voice, consummate artistry, and compelling stage presence as she continues to grace the world’s leading opera stages and concert halls, now extending her reach to include other musical forms and media. She has appeared with all the major orchestras of Europe and North America and collaborated with such renowned conductors as Daniel Barenboim, Christoph Eschenbach, Valery Gergiev, Bernard Haitink, James Levine, the late Sir Charles Mackerras, Zubin Mehta, Seiji Ozawa, Sir Antonio Pappano, André Previn, Christian Thielemann, Michael Tilson Thomas and the late Sir Georg Solti.  
Renée Fleming was born in Pennsylvania and grew up in Rochester, New York. Her parents were both teachers of singing, and music formed part of her upbringing. She went on to study at the Juilliard School, holds degrees from the State University of New York at Potsdam and the Eastman School of Music, and was a Fulbright Scholar for study in Germany. Early awards include the 1988 Metropolitan Opera National Auditions, the Richard Tucker Award, and the George London Prize. The soprano’s breakthrough came in 1988 when she made her debut as the Countess in Mozart’s Le nozze de Figaro. Further signature roles include Desdemona in Verdi’s Otello, Violetta in Verdi’s La traviata, the title roles in Dvořák’s Rusalka, Massenet’s Manon and Thaïs and Richard Strauss’s Arabella, Countess Madeleine in Capriccio and the Marschallin in Der Rosen­kavalier.
Renée Fleming is also a champion of new music and performed in the world premiere of John Corigliano’s The Ghosts of Versailles at the Metropolitan Opera, sang in the first performances of Floyd’s Susannah at the Met and the Lyric Opera of Chicago, and created the role of Blanche in the world premiere of André Previn’s A Streetcar Named Desire with the San Francisco Opera. She also gave the world premiere of the song cycle Le Temps l’horloge, written for her by Henri Dutilleux, with Seiji Ozawa at the Saito Kinen Festival in Japan in 2007.
In 2009 Fleming performed Messiaen’s Poèmes pour Mi at the New York Philharmonic’s Opening Night Gala welcoming new Music Director Alan Gilbert. On New Year’s Eve of 2010 she was Hanna Glawari with the Dresden Staatskapelle under Christian Thielemann at the Semperoper. Some highlights of 2011: Rossini’s Armida, Strauss’s Capriccio and Handel’s Rodelinda at the Met, Verdi’s Otello in Paris, and Donizetti’s Lucrezia Borgia in San Francisco. 2012 brought a new role to her repertoire, Strauss’s Ariadne, which she sang with the Dresden Staatskapelle under Thielemann at the Baden-Baden Festival, as well as Verdi’s Desdemona at the Met, and Strauss’s Arabella in Paris. Her engagements in 2013 include Capriccio in Vienna and at Covent Garden, Previn’s A Streetcar Named Desire at the Chicago Lyric Opera and Carnegie Hall, concerts with the San Francisco Symphony (Tilson Thomas) and New York Philharmonic (Gilbert; world premiere of a new work by Anders Hillborg), a US duo-recital tour with Susan Graham and a solo recital tour of China and Taiwan.
Renée Fleming has been an exclusive recording artist with Decca since 1995 and has made numerous prize-winning recordings. For her album The Beautiful Voice – a collection of favourite songs – she was awarded in 1998 a prize from the Académie du Disque Lyrique and her first Grammy® for the “Best Classical Vocal Performance”. She has also won three Gramophone Awards – the “Recital Award” for I Want Magic – a collection of American opera arias – and the “Opera Award” and “Record of the Year” for Rusalka, with Ben Heppner and Sir Charles Mackerras. In 2002 she won a Grammy® with her recital album Bel Canto, and in 2006 an Echo Award for her recording of Strauss’s Daphne. Other notable recordings include Great Opera Scenes with the London Symphony Orchestra and Mozart’s Don Giovanni, alongside Bryn Terfel, both recordings conducted by Sir Georg Solti and both receiving Grammy® nominations. The recording Homage – The Age of the Diva (2006) comprises rarely-heard works associated with legendary singers of the past. 2008 saw the release of Richard Strauss’s Four Last Songs (Echo Award “Lied recording of the Year” 2009). Her last two solo albums, Verismo, a collection of rarely-heard Italian arias, and Poèmes, comprising Ravel’s Shéhérazade, Messiaen’s Poèmes pour Mi and works by Dutilleux, won the artist her third and fourth Grammy® awards for “Best Classical Vocal Performance”. DVD releases include La traviata from Los Angeles Opera, Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin with Dmitri Hvorostovsky and Valery Gergiev from the Met, Richard Strauss’s Arabella from the Zurich Opera, Der Rosenkavalier with Thielemann from the Baden-Baden Festival, Massenet’s Thaïs, Rossini’s Armida and Strauss’s Capriccio, all from the Met, A Musical Odyssey in St Petersburg together with Dmitri Hvorostovsky, and Handel’s Rodelinda from the Met with Andreas Scholl, under Harry Bicket. 2013 will bring the release of a new solo album and, on DVD, Ariadne auf Naxos.
Renée Fleming has been honoured with numerous other awards. She received two Classical Brit Awards – as “Female Artist of the Year” (2003) and for her “Outstanding Contribution to Music” (2004), Honorary Doctorates from The Juilliard School, The Eastman School of Music, and Carnegie Mellon University and Honorary Member­ship in the Royal Academy of Music, the Chevalier de la Légion d’honneur from the French government (2005) and Sweden’s Polar Prize (2008). In 2012 she was named “Singer of the Year” at Germany’s Echo Awards.
The “people’s diva” has been sought after for numerous distinguished occasions, from the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize ceremony to performances in Beijing during the 2008 Olympic Games. Also in 2008, Ms. Fleming became the first woman in the 125-year history of the Metropolitan Opera to solo headline an opening night gala. On January 18, 2009, she sang for the televised We Are One: The Obama Inaugural Celebration at the Lincoln Memorial concert for President Obama. She has performed for the United States Supreme Court, HRH The Prince of Wales at Buckingham Palace and at the 20th anniversary of the “Velvet Revolution” in Prague, at the invitation of Vaclav Havel. In 2012 she sang in the Diamond Jubilee Concert of HM Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace. She is also frequently seen and heard on television and radio: over the past few seasons she has hosted many broadcasts, including the Met’s Live in HD series for movie theatres and television, and Live from Lincoln Center on PBS. Her book, The Inner Voice, was first issued in 2004. An intimate account of her career and creative process, the book is also published in the UK, France, Germany, Japan, and Russia.
In 2010 Renée Fleming was named the first-ever creative consultant at the Lyric Opera of Chicago. She is currently a member of the Board of Trustees of the Carnegie Hall Corporation, the Board of Sing for Hope and the Advisory Board of the White Nights Foundation of America.
In 2014, Ms. Fleming brought her voice to vast new audience as the first classical artist ever to sing The Star-Spangled Banner at the Super Bowl. Known for bringing new audiences to classical music and opera, she has starred in and hosted an array of television and radio broadcasts, including The Met: Live in HD and Live from Lincoln Center. Her voice is featured on the soundtracks of Best Picture Oscar winners The Shape of Water and The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King. This seventeen-time Grammy nominated artist has recorded everything from complete operas and song recitals to jazz and indie rock. During the pandemic, Ms. Fleming’s performances on digital platforms have included streamed online concerts for the Metropolitan Opera, the Kennedy Center, Lyric Opera of Chicago, LA Opera, and the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra.
In 2020, Fleming launched Music and Mind LIVE, a weekly online interview show exploring the intersection of music and arts with human health and the brain. In 19 episodes, the show amassed more than 650,000 views, from 70 countries. She was inspired to launch the series by the Sound Health initiative she leads as Artistic Advisor to the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, in partnership with the NIH and the NEA. She has given presentations with scientists and practitioners on the connection of arts and health around the world, and is a leading advocate for research in this field, winning the 2020 Rosenfeld Award for Impact on Public Opinion.
In addition to her work with the Kennedy Center, Ms. Fleming leads SongStudio at Carnegie Hall, an intensive program for young singers and pianists dedicated to the art of the song. She is Co-Director of the Aspen Opera Center and VocalArts at the Aspen Music Festival.
In 2019, Renée Fleming appeared opposite Ben Whishaw in Norma Jean Baker of Troy to open The Shed in New York City. Later that year, she performed world premieres by André Previn and Kevin Puts with the Boston Symphony Orchestra, and the London premiere of The Light in the Piazza, bringing the acclaimed production to Los Angeles and Chicago in the autumn. Ms. Fleming earned a Tony Award nomination for her performance in the 2018 Broadway production of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Carousel.
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