Renee Fleming appears in Kennedy Center’s virtual inauguration

Renee Fleming appears in Kennedy Center’s virtual inauguration


norman lebrecht

January 20, 2021

Washington DC’s arts center, closed by Covid, has put together a pre-recorded program for Inauguration Day. Most artists recorded at home.

Early today, Renee sang at the private mass at St. Matthew’s Cathedral for President-Elect Biden, Vice President-Elect Harris, and congressional leaders from both parties. She sang Schubert’s Ave Maria and America the Beautiful.

Full performing cast:
Renée Fleming
J’Nai Bridges
Lawrence Brownlee
Soloman Howard
Ryan McKinny
Eric Owens
and WNO’s Cafritz Young Artists



  • Tiredofitall says:

    OF COURSE Renée is there…did anyone ever question that she wouldn’t pop up in some form?

  • The Oakland Symphony did one on Sunday (still available on demand) for native daughter Kamala Harris. 20 Oakland arts organizations and artists participated, as did civic leaders. You can still see it on their website.

  • JussiB says:

    I find the older Renee gets the more she slurs her high notes. UGH!

    • Maria says:

      Unhelpful comment given that she sang a very difficult but meaningful song with beautiful words portrayed that has far more notes in it than the high ones to your personal dislike. If you can’t say something good to a fine creative artist of many years, then best keep quiet than just finding fault by listening for every high note of any singer and sniping from the sidelines. More a sign of a true armchair amateur rather than anyone with knowledge worth sharing.

      • Tiredofitall says:

        Renee always does her best.

      • JussiB says:

        I just don’t like her turning every song into the blues. Actually I was a zealous Renee groupie in the 90’s like yourself. Her slurring and sliding of notes was somewhat ‘cute’ back then but it got worse over the years.

  • sam says:

    Why won’t opera singers sing in the proper style of the song?

    The operatic technique was developed over time for a specific type of music and is not for every song and every style.

    It would be just as wrong if J Lo sang an opera aria (say, la Habanera, a song well within her range) with the same technique she uses for her pop songs.

    • Tiredofitall says:

      Style and technique don’t often intersect, sadly. For an operatic voice that has the technique to do popular music, listen to Leontyne Price with Adree Previn. Stunning musicianship.

  • Thomas Dawkins says:

    The American National Anthem is not an aria, it was originally a British drinking song that was probably sung off-key by large groups of drunken men. So if we want to apply Historically Informed Performance practice to it, get a collegiate glee club sloshed and let them have at it.

    • Anon9 says:

      If you really want to be HIP — the song To Ancreon in Heaven was originally written for the 18th-cent. Anacreontic Society, to be performed by a professional singer or gifted amateur, with the comparatively sober music-loving gentlemen members joining in the last two lines of each stanza — those lines being easier to sing than the rest (rather like We wish you a merry Christmas).

      “While the society’s membership, one observer noted, was dedicated to “wit, harmony, and the god of wine”, their primary goal (beyond companionship and talk) was to promote an interest in music. The society presented regular concerts of music, and included among their guests such important musicians as Joseph Haydn, who was the special guest at their concert in January 1791.” (wikipedia, Anacreontic Society, and with links to the poem)

      I’m sure that singing out-of-key would not have been tolerated!

      It is nice to think of the Star-Spangled Banner having its origins among lovers of good music.

  • RW2013 says:

    A missed opportunity to do Bernstein’s Songfest.

  • Dave T says:

    Yo-yo Ma was part of the evening musical salute program.

    • mary says:

      The perennial Yo Yo Ma, with a scratchy rendition of Amazing Grace, is the lazy man’s choice of a token classical musician.

      Considering the budget alone for the fireworks (stunning!) they could’ve hired the National Symphony.

  • I never should sing or play for Biden or Kamala

  • David A. Boxwell says:

    Mezzo Rehanna Thelwell made me cry (12:30 to 16:30).

  • Fleming Fan says:

    For those of you criticizing the way Renee Fleming sings a little background might be helpful in this matter. When Renee was in college she was a jazz singer as well as studying Opera. She regularly played jazz clubs in the area during her career as a student. She was such a fine singer that when Lionel Hampton came to town, he invited her to go on the road and be the singer for his big band. That to me is as great a compliment as you can give to a opera singer. Also, if you saw the movie “the shape of water”, Renee sings the title tune to the soundtrack. You can find her performance of that on YouTube by searching for the “official soundtrack for the shape of water Renee Fleming”. It is one of the most gorgeous big band/ Hollywood Orchestra title tunes for a movie that I have ever heard. I suggest you take a listen before you criticize Miss Fleming` singing..

    • Tiredofitall says:

      If Ms. Fleming’s vocal technique was still in place, she should be able to move from stye to style without unfortunate mannerisms. She had some later operatic career successes, notably “Eugene Onegin”, but that was nearly ten years ago. Other roles, like her signature Rusalka, deteriorated alarmingly near the end.

      Unless it is a case of unfortunate musical taste (sadly witnessed several years ago with “Somewhere over the Rainbow” at the Nobel ceremonies), she–at an advanced age for a singer–is at the mercy of the physical limitations of her vocal apparatus.

      Here early forays into jazz don’t enter into her vocal problems. She never mastered that idiom.