Renée Fleming has a full lyric soprano voice. Fleming has performed coloratura, lyric, and lighter spinto soprano repertoires. She has sung roles in Italian, German, French, Czech, and Russian, aside from her native English. She also speaks fluent German and French, along with limited Italian.
Her signature roles include Countess Almaviva in Mozart's Le nozze di Figaro, Desdemona in Verdi's Otello, Violetta in Verdi's La traviata, the title role in Dvořák's Rusalka, the title role in Massenet's Manon, the title role in Massenet's Thaïs, the Marschallin in Richard Strauss's Der Rosenkavalier, and the title role in Arabella.
A Richard Tucker Award winner, she regularly performs in opera houses and concert halls worldwide. In 2008 she was awarded the Swedish Polar Music Prize for her services in music.
-----A daughter of two music teachers, Fleming was born in Indiana, Pennsylvania, and grew up in Rochester, New York. She studied with Patricia Misslin at the Crane School of Music at the State University of New York at Potsdam.
While at SUNY Potsdam, she took up singing with a jazz trio in an off-campus bar called Alger's. The jazz saxophonist Illinois Jacquet invited her on tour with his big band, but she chose instead to continue with graduate studies at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York with voice teacher John Maloy.
She won a Fulbright Scholarship, which enabled her to work in Europe with Arleen Augér and Elisabeth Schwarzkopf. This was followed by further studies at the Juilliard School, which she paid for by performing jazz gigs. While at Juilliard she sang in roles with the Juilliard Opera Center, appearing as Musetta in Puccini's La bohème and the Wife in Menotti's Tamu-Tamu, among others.
Fleming first began performing professionally in smaller concerts and with small opera companies while still a graduate student at Juilliard. She sang frequently in the Musica Viva concert series sponsored by the New York Unitarian Church of All Souls during the 1980s.
In 1984 she sang nine songs by Hugo Wolf in the world premiere of Eliot Feld's ballet Adieu, which she again performed in 1987 and 1989 at the Joyce Theater. In 1986 she sang her first major operatic role, Konstanze in Die Entführung aus dem Serail, at the Salzburg Landestheater.
Two years later she portrayed Thalie, Clarine and La Folie in Jean-Philippe Rameau's Platée with the Piccolo Teatro Dell Opera.
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-----Fleming's first major break came in 1988 when she won the Metropolitan Opera Auditions at age 29. That same year she sang the Countess in The Marriage of Figaro in her debut with Houston Grand Opera. She reprised the role the following year in her debut at the Spoleto Festival.
Also in 1989, Fleming made her debut with the New York City Opera as Mimi in La Bohème and her debut with the Royal Opera at Covent Garden as Dirce in Cherubini's Médée. She also was awarded a Richard Tucker Career Grant and won the George London Competition.
In 1990 she was once again honored by the Richard Tucker Music Foundation but this time with the highly coveted Richard Tucker Award. That same year she made her debut with Seattle Opera in her first portrayal of the title role in Rusalka, a role that she has since recorded and reprised at many of the world's great opera houses.
|Photo by Andreas Praefcke|
In 1991, Fleming made her Metropolitan Opera and San Francisco Opera debut portraying Countess Almaviva in Le nozze di Figaro. Fleming was originally not scheduled to make her Met debut until the next season, but ended up making it earlier than expected by stepping into replace Felicity Lott who had become ill.
She returned to the Met later that year to sing Rosina in the world premiere of John Corigliano's The Ghosts of Versailles. That same year she made her Carnegie Hall debut performing music by Ravel with the New York City Opera Orchestra, sang Rusalka with Houston Grand Opera, and made her debut at the Tanglewood Music Festival as Ilia in Mozart's Idomeneo with Seiji Ozawa and the Boston Symphony Orchestra.
-----Fleming has released a number of music recordings on the Decca label. In 2000 she was a guest artist alongside the cellist Julian Lloyd Webber and the violinist Gil Shaham on the album Two Worlds by Dave Grusin and Lee Ritenour.
She recorded a jazz album in 2005 entitled Haunted Heart. She appears on the soundtrack of the 2003 film The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King in which she sings in the imagined language Sindarin.
Fleming recorded the duet "O soave fanciulla" with Michael Bolton. Her album Dark Hope, released in June 2010, features covers of songs by Leonard Cohen, Band of Horses, Jefferson Airplane and others.
In June 2011, a panel of experts at Limelight magazine named Fleming as one of "Today's 12 Greatest Opera Singers."