Renée Fleming: I’m heading for Broadway

Renée Fleming: I’m heading for Broadway


norman lebrecht

November 19, 2014

A dedicated Fleming watcher has sent us this interview with the diva, from The news-making quote is:

As the conversation drew to a close, Fleming revealed the next “out of the box” undertaking on her to-do list: She hopes to star on Broadway in a production of “Living on Love,” a farce she performed in this past summer at the Williamstown Theater Festival in Massachusetts. Her face brightened as she discussed the play, which is based on Garson Kanin’s “Peccadillo” (1985) and cast Fleming as a fading opera diva.

“It was really fun and very challenging for me,” Fleming said. “I was so ignorant that I didn’t even realize how hard farce is, because it’s all about timing and things have to go very quickly. I also didn’t realize what happens when you’re not supported by music. It’s a different part of your brain.

“Right now we’re waiting on a Broadway theater to become available,” she said. “I’ve got to tell you, I’m super-happy. I feel very fortunate to be able to broaden what I’m doing in this way. It’s a real gift. I’ve been singing opera now for almost 25 years, so it’s time to think about other things. I can concertize for a long time, and I have a lot of options, which is very exciting.”



Ms Fleming goes on to say:

“I felt very straitjacketed until about 10 years ago, and all of my career before then, because there was this idea that, if you didn’t follow this specifically European template of what an opera singer is … First of all, that was a risk, because you didn’t want to lose your stature as some highbrow performer, and, secondly, you didn’t want to dilute what you were doing. The more successful classical musicians have been specialists. I was already not a specialist, because my interests in music, in classical music, were too broad.

“Then I thought, ‘I grew up listening to all kinds of things and singing different styles,’” she said. “I even sang country-western at a C.B.-radio convention once. I really felt, with jazz, that I had some credibility, because I’d sung for two-and-a-half years with a trio. I sang a lot of folk music as well, and played guitar quite well when I was young. I learned all of Joni Mitchell’s songs, and she was my idol.

“So I wanted to branch out a little, and I’ve resisted that pigeonholing.”




  • GEll says:

    And the resistance to pigeonholing sure shows. Stylistically, her singing (vocalises, actually, because words mean nothing to her), whether operatic, classical, pop, or jazz, is a confused mess and unlistenable. Wasn’t always so in the early days. And her acting is superficial at best, so Broadway is, again, all wrong. Better to stick to her new day job as opera administrator.

  • Marcy Richardson says:

    Good for her! I’ve always loved her live performances. People can say whatever they like-it will never negate her success as an opera star and all she has accomplished. I love an artist who thinks outside the box and who is not afraid to diversify. You only get one life-do what makes you happy, do things that make you excited. Many voices and artists ebb and flow over time. Anyone out there who prefers “early Fleming” has a plethora of videos and recordings to enjoy. She’s done just about all you can do as an opera star-why stay confined to that box if you don’t want to after 20 years?! Please! Good for her!

  • Lloyd Arriola says:

    Yay, Renee Fleming. Hard for me to see that “words mean nothing to her”, but there are plenty of us who enjoy her presence on the arts scene. We can’t all be Teresa Stratas, Caballé or Callas (either Maria or CharlIe) whom I adore, but I will take Renee Fleming very happily as my soprano drug of choice. I will even watch her “superficial” acting.

  • John says:

    Of course Renee will choose whatever path she wants to follow. Whether I follow her on those paths will be another matter. (see Pavarotti)

  • Christy says:

    Go, Renee! Opera needs someone with the bravery, strength and talent to break out of the box. By breaking out of the opera box, she can break *in* to a more mainstream music business – the same business that has worked so hard to keep classical musicians out.

    She may have some detractors, but she has way more who thank her and love her work (and don’t expect her to do the same thing over and over to please us).

    There used to be many divas gracing our tv screens. Now, there’s Renee. And that’s it. Without her musical curiosity and willingness to take the slings and arrows of old-school opera fans, mainstream US audiences would have zero – zero – exposure to classical music.