Artistic Advisor-at-Large, John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts
Creative Consultant, Lyric Opera of Chicago
One of the most beloved and celebrated singers of our time, soprano Renée Fleming captivates audiences with her sumptuous voice, consummate artistry, and compelling stage presence. At a White House ceremony in 2013, President Obama awarded her the National Medal of Arts, America’s highest honor for an individual artist. Winner of the 2013 Grammy Award for Best Classical Vocal Solo, she brought her voice to a vast new audience in 2014, as the first classical artist ever to sing “The Star-Spangled Banner” at the Super Bowl.
As a musical statesman, Renée has been sought after on numerous distinguished occasions, from the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize ceremony to performances in Beijing during the 2008 Olympic Games. In 2014, she sang in the televised concert at the Brandenburg Gate to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. In 2012, in an historic first, she sang on the balcony of Buckingham Palace in the Diamond Jubilee Concert for HM Queen Elizabeth II. In January 2009, Renée was featured in the televised We Are One: The Inaugural Celebration at the Lincoln Memorial concert for President Obama. She has also performed for the United States Supreme Court and, in 2009, celebrated the 20th anniversary of the Czech Republic’s “Velvet Revolution” at the invitation of Václav Havel. A ground-breaking distinction came in 2008 when Renée became the first woman in the 125-year history of the Metropolitan Opera to solo headline an opening night gala.
In 2018, Renée will make her Broadway musical debut in a major revival of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Carousel. Last season, Renée brought her acclaimed portrayal of the Marschallin in Strauss’s Der Rosenkavalier to the Royal Opera, Covent Garden, and the Metropolitan Opera, in a new production by director Robert Carsen. A DVD of that performance will be released by Decca this year. Her 2017-18 recital and concert schedule spans the globe, including Budapest, Vienna, Amsterdam, Brussels, Paris, London, Madrid, Helsinki, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Beijing, Seoul, Houston, Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York.Read more
Renée will be heard as the singing voice of Roxane, played by Julianne Moore, in the upcoming film of Ann Patchett’s best-selling novel Bel Canto. She is also heard on the soundtrack of this season’s winner of the Golden Lion Award at the Venice Film Festival, Guillermo del Toro’s highly-anticipated The Shape of Water. She recorded Alexandre Desplat’s theme song, “Still Dream” for the soundtrack of the Dreamworks Animation feature, Rise of the Guardians. This fourteen-time Grammy nominated artist has recorded everything from Strauss’s complete Daphne to the jazz album Haunted Heart to the movie soundtrack of The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King.
A four-time Grammy winner, Renée won the 2013 Best Classical Vocal Solo Grammy Award for Poèmes (Decca, 2012), a collection of 20th-Century French music, including works composed especially for her by Henri Dutilleux. Her most recent album Distant Light was recorded with the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic and released in January by Decca. It features Barber’s Knoxville: Summer of 1915, The Strand Settings, composed for Renée by Anders Hillborg, as well as songs by Björk in new orchestral arrangements. In 2015, she was featured with Yo-Yo Ma on the Billy Childs album, Map to the Treasure: Reimagining Laura Nyro, their track “New York Tendaberry” winning the Grammy for Best Arrangement, Instruments and Vocals. Her first-ever holiday album, Christmas in New York, was released in 2014, and was the inspiration for a special on PBS. In June 2010, Decca and Mercury records released the CD Dark Hope, which features Renée covering songs by indie-rock and pop artists.
In spring 2017, Renée’s 2009 album Signatures was selected by the U.S. Library of Congress for the National Recording Registry, as an “aural treasure worthy of preservation as part of America’s patrimony.” Other recording honors range from the 2009 Echo Award for Strauss’s Four Last Songs to the Prix Maria Callas Orphée d’Or by the Académie du Disque Lyric for TDK’s DVD production of Capriccio. In 2012, Renée received the Victoire d’Honneur, the highest award conveyed by the French Victoires de la Musique.
In recent years, Renée has hosted a wide variety of television and radio broadcasts, including the Metropolitan Opera’s Live in HD series for movie theaters and television, and Live From Lincoln Center on PBS. She is currently spearheading a collaboration between the John F. Kennedy Center and the U.S. National Institutes of Health focused on the science connecting music, wellness, and the brain. In 2013, Renée joined with the Kennedy Center to present American Voices, a concert and 3-day festival celebrating the best American singing in all genres. The festival was the subject of a Great Performances documentary on PBS. In January 2017, Renée led a similar cross-genre celebration of singing and community, Chicago Voices, at Lyric Opera of Chicago, with a gala concert telecast on public television. She curated the creation of a world-premiere opera based on Ann Patchett’s best-seller Bel Canto for Lyric Opera’s 2015-2016 season. A performance of the production was telecast on PBS Great Performances in 2017. In both 2016 and 2017 she sang in the National Memorial Day Concert with the National Symphony Orchestra, telecast from the lawn of the U.S. Capitol on PBS. Renée has appeared on The Late Show with David Letterman (famously singing the Top Ten List), The Martha Stewart Show, Sesame Street, Spectacle: Elvis Costello with…, The View and Prairie Home Companion as “Renata Flambé.”
Renée’s recent opera dvds include Dvořák’s Rusalka, Verdi’s Otello, Handel’s Rodelinda, Massenet’s Thaïs, all in the Metropolitan Opera Live in HD series, as well as Strauss’s Arabella and Ariadne auf Naxos, Donizetti’s Lucrezia Borgia, and Verdi’s Traviata, filmed at London’s Royal Opera House. Ms. Fleming’s 2010 DVD Renée Fleming & Dmitri Hvorostovsky: A Musical Odyssey in St. Petersburg follows Renée and baritone Dmitri Hvorostovsky to Russia, where they explore and perform in some of St. Petersburg’s most historic locations.
Renée Fleming’s artistry has been an inspiration to many other prominent artists, such as Chuck Close and Robert Wilson, whose portraits of her were included in the Metropolitan Opera’s 2007 fundraising auction. Two portraits of Ms. Fleming were also created by Francesco Clemente, who revealed one in Salzburg in spring 2007, with the Metropolitan Opera displaying the other in 2008. Photographic portraits include works by Brigitte Lacombe and Irving Penn, among others. In 2016, the Annie Leibowitz portrait of Renée was added to the permanent collection of the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, DC. Nelson Shank’s portrait of Renée in the title role of Rusalka is on display in the portrait gallery of the Metropolitan Opera.
Renée Fleming is a champion of new music and has performed works by a wide range of contemporary composers, including recent compositions by Anders Hillborg, Henri Dutilleux, Brad Mehldau, André Previn, and Wayne Shorter. Among her numerous awards are Germany’s Cross of the Order of Merit (2015); the Fulbright Lifetime Achievement Medal (2011); Sweden’s Polar Prize (2008); the Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur from the French government (2005); Honorary Membership in the Royal Academy of Music (2003); and honorary doctorates from Harvard University, the University of Pennsylvania, Duke University (2015), Carnegie Mellon University (2012), the Eastman School of Music (2011) and The Juilliard School (2003), where she was also commencement speaker.
An advocate for literacy, Renée Fleming has been featured in promotional campaigns for the Association of American Publishers (Get Caught Reading), and the Magazine Publishers of America’s READ poster campaign for the American Library Association. She was honored by The New York Public Library as a “Library Lion.” Her book, The Inner Voice, was published by Viking Penguin in 2004, and released in paperback by Penguin the following year. The paperback edition is now in its sixteenth printing. An intimate account of her career and creative process, the book is also published in France by Fayard Editions, in the United Kingdom by Virgin Books, by Henschel Verlag in Germany, Shunjusha in Japan, Pro Musica Mundi in Poland, and by Fantom Press in Russia. A Chinese edition is in the works.
In addition to her work on stage and in recordings, in 2008, she launched La Voce by Renée Fleming, a fragrance designed for her, with the proceeds benefiting the Metropolitan Opera. Master Chef Daniel Boulud created the dessert “La Diva Renée” (1999) in her honor, and she inspired the “Renée Fleming Iris” (2004), which has been replicated in porcelain by Boehm. Having been added to Mr. Blackwell’s best dressed list, her concert gowns have been designed by Vivienne Westwood, Reem Acra, Gianfranco Ferré, John Galliano for Dior, Christian Lacroix, Oscar de la Renta, and Angel Sanchez. In June of 2014, the Smithsonian added the gown designed by Vera Wang for Renée’s Super Bowl anthem performance to the permanent collection of the Museum of American History.
In 2016, Renée was appointed Artistic Advisor-at-Large for the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. She is currently a member of the Board of Trustees of the Carnegie Hall Corporation, the Board of Sing for Hope, the Board of Trustees of Asia Society, and the Artistic Advisory Board of the Polyphony Foundation, which works to bridge the divide between Arab and Jewish communities in Israel by creating a common ground where young people come together around classical music. She is a creative advisor to AIR, the Association of Independents in Radio. In 2010, she was named the first-ever Creative Consultant at Lyric Opera of Chicago, where she is also a member of the Board and a Vice President.
“The Beautiful Voice soared, swelled and glistened at the Kennedy Center on Saturday night. Renee Fleming, the soprano possessed of this sobriquet, gave a recital at the Concert Hall, courtesy of the Washington Performing Arts Society, to a large and appreciative crowd; she brought her A-game, and everyone was happy…Fleming has been America’s reigning diva for more than a decade now…on Saturday [she] offered some of the shining freshness that grabbed everyone’s attention when she was just coming onto the scene: gleaming high notes arcing downwards like wires of gold.”
“Renée Fleming is a true diva du jour. Her sumptuous soprano, dazzling technique and glamorous persona make her the complete package. Resplendently gowned, she cut an elegant figure at her Schubert Club recital Thursday at the Ordway. But she was utterly natural in the way she addressed the audience with eager enthusiasm about the program…Fleming unleashed her luxurious voice in an over-the-top rendering of the death scene from Umberto Giordano’s Fedora. Especially thrilling was ‘The Book of Hours: Love Poems to God,’ a cycle that jazz musician Brad Mehldau wrote for Fleming using poems by Rainer Maria Rilke…she sang the challenging music with emotional commitment. Equally successful was ‘Jane Grey’ an Arnold Schoenberg song about the nine-day queen of England. Fleming embraced this post-Romantic monologue as a great dramatic scene and told a deeply felt story. This was also true of three songs by Erich Wolfgang Korngold, which seemed particularly suited to her. She poured her heart into them, bringing some exquisite floated pianissimos expressively to bear.”
William Randall Beard
“She came, she sang, she conquered: Soprano Renée Fleming triumphed at the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra gala concert on Saturday night at Powell Hall. Fleming has presence and glamour (enhanced by her spectacular form-fitting strapless violet dress, with a floor-sweeping black tulle stole, diamond necklace and big hair), and made the audience feel like old friends. Most of all, she was in excellent voice…She sang [‘Song to the Moon,’ from Dvorák’s opera Rusalka] ravishingly, her voice like rose gold… her final number, ‘O mio babbino caro,’ from Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi, was sung flawlessly, and made the perfect ending to the evening.”
Sarah Bryan Miller, St. Louis Post Dispatch
“Renée Fleming has always made very particular and personal choices of operatic roles. Over the years, the managers of the Metropolitan Opera, fully appreciative of Ms. Fleming’s vocal artistry and star power, have been ready to accommodate her. The company has mounted house premiere productions of three strikingly diverse operas — Carlisle Floyd’s ‘Susannah,’ Bellini’s ‘Pirata’ and Handel’s ‘Rodelinda’ — specifically for Ms. Fleming. On Monday night the Met obliged Ms. Fleming with another house premiere, Rossini’s ‘Armida,’ in a fanciful production by the director Mary Zimmerman. In requesting this fantastical, infrequently heard 1817 work, which, with two intermissions, lasted nearly four hours, Ms. Fleming was hardly playing it safe. Armida is an alluring, conniving sorceress, the niece of the cagey King of Damascus during the crusades. The role is a tour de force for a soprano who can combine alluring long-spun lyrical singing with dazzling, sometimes demonic, coloratura flights. … This was Ms. Fleming’s show, and she was impressive over all. She first sang the role at the Rossini Festival in Pesaro, Italy, in 1993, a performance recorded live for a Sony release. In 1996 she triumphed as Armida in a concert performance with the Opera Orchestra of New York at Carnegie Hall, conducted by Eve Queler. … ‘Armida’ belongs at the Met. And the company has the right star in place.”
Anthony Tommasini, The New York Times