Renee Fleming and the Columbus Symphony team up for a concert



As one of the most acclaimed contemporary opera singers, soprano Renee Fleming has had a taste of every major role.

Thirty years ago, in March, when she was making her first appearance with the famous Metropolitan Opera in New York, Fleming appeared as Countess Almaviva in Mozart’s “The Marriage of Figaro”. She has since appeared with The Met as Hanna Glawari in Lehar’s “The Merry Widow”, Violetta in Verdi’s “La Traviata”, Desdemona in Verdi’s “Otello” – you name her.

During such productions Fleming and his fellow singers are naturally the center of attention; the accompanying orchestra is down in the pit, out of sight if not out of mind.

Yet Fleming, a four-time Grammy Award winner for her classical records (out of 17 nominations) and 2012 recipient of the National Medal of Arts, admits that what she loves most is singing like herself. , not in a role, and share a scene with an orchestra.

“When the orchestra is in the pit, you can’t see them, number one, if you’re on stage,” said Fleming, 62. “You can’t even necessarily hear them too. You’re playing a role and you’re in a theatrical production, so the priorities are a bit different.

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When she’s face to face with musicians, it’s a whole different story.

“It’s a real luxury,” Fleming said. “The subtlety that occurs in terms of interpretation, of relationship with the conductor, that gives me a lot of joy.”

Eager to perform

Fleming’s last appearance will be on September 25, when the singer performs with the Columbus Symphony at the Ohio Theater. The singer will be accompanied by 77 symphonic musicians, including seven new full-time members: violinists Autumn Chodorowski, Zhe Deng and Gyusun Han, violists Spencer Ingersoll and Alice Risov, flutist and piccolo Lydia Roth and principal oboe Hugo Souza.

The season opening concert is the first in which the symphony will institute a new policy in which proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test are admission requirements.

Members of the public must provide proof of vaccination or provide the results of a negative test carried out no earlier than 72 hours before the performance; Negative rapid antigenic tests will be accepted if they are carried out no earlier than the previous 24 hours. The policy also requires that those who cannot be vaccinated, including children 12 and under, provide negative COVID tests to attend. All participants must be masked.

Renee fleming

Fleming’s appearance with the symphony was delayed from May, when it was due to close the 2020-21 season. The pandemic has led the symphony to adjust its schedule, but music director Rossen Milanov believes the change could have been for the better.

“As soon as we found out that we weren’t going to be able to organize the concert as planned at the end of last season, we contacted her and she was very positive and accommodating,” said Milanov. “Of course, opening the season with her will be even more meaningful than closing this very strange season that we have had to go through.”

Fleming had already performed with the symphony in 2006.

“I’ve always loved coming to Columbus,” she said. “I have a dear high school friend who lives and works there. “

On tour once again

Born in Indiana, Pa. But raised in Rochester, New York, Fleming is getting used to regular touring again. When she spoke to The Dispatch in early September, she was in Vienna on a European tour that had started several weeks earlier.

“I haven’t been anywhere for the first 12, 14 months (of the pandemic),” said Fleming, who lives in the Washington, DC area. She has presented social distancing shows and given virtual performances in her spare time. (Last December, the YouTube channel of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts featured Fleming’s “Home for the Holidays” Christmas music concert.)

“Streaming and… digital performances are not a substitute for live performances,” Fleming said. “You don’t feel so free. You are worried that the microphone is picking up too much proximity. I find that a little ungrateful.

Not that Fleming fans would pass up an opportunity to hear his voice.

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“She is such a star because she has such a diverse repertoire, ranging, of course, from the Baroque era and classical opera and the 20th century to American songbook,” said Milanov. “I think that’s probably one of the secrets everyone loves her for.”

This musical diversity will be on display at the concert in Columbus, which will include Fleming singing “Four Last Songs” by Richard Strauss – probably the work she performs most often, she said.

“I never tire of it,” she said. “You can insert your own life and your own experience into this poetry. “

Also on view is a play written for Fleming by Columbus composer Andrew Lippa, “The Diva”; and excerpts from the musical “The Sound of Music” by Rodgers and Hammerstein. This last piece has different requirements from traditional opera.

“It’s more word-based,” Fleming said of the song from the Rodgers and Hammerstein songbook. “(There is) less focus on the music, … and more focus on what you express in words.”

And, among the arias she has chosen, especially about the late September performance, there will be “‘Tis The Last Rose of Summer” from the opera “Martha” by Friedrich von Flotow.

“I always try to give something to everyone,” Fleming said. “It’s something that I appreciate.”

But most of all, she’s happy to be performing in front of a live audience again, especially in the company of 77 of her closest friends.

“People missed the performing arts,” Fleming said. “They are desperate to have this shared live experience.”

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In one look

Soprano Renee Fleming will perform with the Columbus Symphony at 7:30 p.m. on September 25 at the Ohio Theater, 39 E. State St. Tickets are $ 56 to $ 210. For more information, visit


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