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 (her fourth) 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 sung at numerous prestigious 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.
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 January 2009, Renée was featured in the televised We Are One: The Inaugural Celebration at the Lincoln Memorial 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.
This spring, Renée made her Broadway musical debut in a major revival of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Carousel, for which she earned a Tony Award nomination. Last year, she 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 was subsequently released by Decca. Her current recital and concert schedule spans the globe, including Barcelona, Vienna, Amsterdam, Brussels, Paris, London, Helsinki, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Beijing, Seoul, Houston, Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York.
This fall, Decca will release Renee Fleming: Broadway, a new album of great musical theater songs from the 1920’s to the present day. In a rare double-header for a classical singer, Renée was featured on the soundtracks of two Best Picture and Best Soundtrack nominees at the 2018 Academy awards, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, and The Shape of Water, which ultimately won both prizes, as well as the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival. 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.Read more
In 2016, Renée was appointed Artistic Advisor for the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. Seeking to champion the work being done nationally at the intersection of health and the arts, Renée has spearheaded the first ongoing collaboration between America’s national cultural center and its largest health research institute, the National Institutes of Health. In association with the National Endowment for the Arts, Sound Health brings together leading neuroscientists, music therapists and arts practitioners to better understand the impact of arts on the mind and body. Inspired by the Sound Health initiative, Renée has created a presentation called Music and the Mind, exploring the power of music as it relates to health and the brain. Topics include childhood development, music therapy, and cognitive neuroscience. Since September 2017, Renée has presented Music and the Mind in 14 cities around the country.
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.
Known for bringing new audiences to classical music and opera, Renée has sung not only with Luciano Pavarotti, Plácido Domingo, and Andrea Bocelli, but also with Elton John, Paul Simon, Sting, Josh Groban, and Joan Baez. She has hosted a wide variety of television and radio broadcasts, including the Metropolitan Opera’s Live in HD series and Live from Lincoln Center. In both 2016 and 2017 Renée sang in The National Memorial Day Concert with the National Symphony Orchestra, and she also appeared in the 2018 A Capitol Fourth concert, all 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.”)
In 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.” 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. 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 Dark Hope, which features Renée covering songs by indie-rock and pop artists. Renée recorded Alexandre Desplat’s theme song “Still Dream” for the soundtrack of the Dreamworks Animation feature, Rise of the Guardians. Nominated 14 times for Grammy Awards, she has recorded everything from Strauss’s Daphne, to the jazz album Haunted Heart, to the movie soundtrack of The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King.
Renée’s recent opera dvds include Strauss’s Der Rosenkavalier, Dvořák’s Rusalka, Verdi’s Otello, Handel’s Rodelinda, and 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 La 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.
Among Renée’s 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 Northwestern University (2018), where she delivered the commencement address, the University of Pennsylvania (2016), Harvard University (2015), Duke University (2015), Carnegie Mellon University (2012), the Eastman School of Music (2011), and The Juilliard School (2003), where she was also commencement speaker.
Renée Fleming is a champion of new music and has performed works by a wide range of contemporary composers, including recent compositions by André Previn, Caroline Shaw, Kevin Puts, Anders Hillborg, Henri Dutilleux, Brad Mehldau, and Wayne Shorter. An advocate for literacy, Renée 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.”
Renée Fleming’s artistry has been an inspiration to 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, Irving Penn, and Ruven Afanador, 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’s 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.
Having been added to Mr. Blackwell’s best dressed list, her concert gowns have been designed by Vera Wang, 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 Institution 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 2008, Renée 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.
In 2010, Renée 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. 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.
“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.”
“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