Soprano superstar Renée Fleming takes the stage with the BPO
On Saturday, June 11, four-time Grammy Award-winning soprano Renée Fleming will join the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra on stage at Kleinhans Music Hall for her gala season finale. Fleming’s performance will center on four songs from a never-ending five-song farewell series by Richard Strauss. The program will open with the world premiere of BPO The winter that united us by composer Wang Jie.
Fleming has performed at opera houses, concert halls and theaters around the world, earning 17 Grammy nominations, as well as America’s highest honor for an individual artist, the National Medal of Arts. Fleming’s list of distinguished appearances around the world is extensive, from her performance at the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize ceremony and the 2008 Beijing Olympics, to her breakthrough performance in 2008 as the first woman in the 125 years of Metropolitan Opera history to headline its opening. gala night, to her 2009 performance at President Obama’s Inaugural Celebration, to become the first classical artist to sing “The Star Spangled Banner” at the SuperBowl in 2014. Moviegoers will recognize her voice in the soundtracks of the winners of the Best Picture Oscar The shape of water and The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King. Fleming’s breathtaking voice, star power and diverse accomplishments have brought new audiences to the world of opera and classical music.
Buffalo Rising did a Q&A with Fleming to learn more about his upcoming performance and his ties to the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra.
Can you tell us a bit more about your connection to the Western New York area?
I still feel at home in what New Yorkers call “upstate,” but that encompasses just about everything north or northwest of this city. I think a lot of people are unaware of the cultural richness of the region. For example, I love modern art and visit museums everywhere I travel, but I’ve enjoyed some of the most fantastic exhibits I can remember at places like the Albright-Knox Museum in Buffalo. I also think Buffalo, as a city, has quite a fascinating history.
You last played with the BPO in 2014. What are you waiting for to return to the stage with this orchestra?
After the past two years, it’s a joy to be back singing for a live audience. But I’m especially thrilled to be working with JoAnn Falletta again. She is a phenomenally gifted conductor and has an extraordinary ensemble at the Buffalo Philharmonic. I think it says a lot about Buffalo’s artistic environment that it was here that the first woman was appointed to lead a major American orchestra.
Can you tell us a little more about Strauss’s “Four Last Songs” and why you like to perform this work? What can the public expect?
Richard Strauss’ “Four Last Songs” is one of the great concert works for soprano and orchestra – perhaps the greatest, at least for me. He wrote these songs at the end of his career – he was over 80 – and they weren’t released as a cycle until after his death. They are sublimely beautiful, both the poems themselves, by Hermann Hesse and Joseph von Eichendorff, and their setting to music by Strauss. He had an unparalleled gift for writing for the soprano voice – perhaps because he was married to a soprano. It was von Eichendorff’s poem “Im Abendrot” (At Sunset) that inspired Strauss to begin this work, and it’s a beautiful summary of a couple at dusk, still in love after a lifetime together.
Any advice you would give to your young listeners, the emerging opera stars of tomorrow?
I think it’s fantastic that audiences, young and old, have access, at the touch of a keyboard, to virtually every genre of music that exists. So my only advice would be to explore everything, be adventurous and find and support live performances of music that speaks to you. There is nothing like the shared experience of music or art to build social cohesion, and I think we can all agree that this is an urgent need in our society. And we are learning more every day about the power of music to improve our health and well-being throughout our lives. It has become a real passion for me over the last few years, and I am involved in many new initiatives. I work with great institutions like the Kennedy Center, National Institutes of Health, Johns Hopkins University, National Endowment for the Arts, and Aspen Institute to help explore and educate about the potential of music and the arts to heal and strengthen our minds, bodies and communities.
What’s next on the horizon for your career? Any projects/performances you are looking forward to?
I’m thrilled to sing in the world premiere of Hours at the Metropolitan Opera this fall. It’s from Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Kevin Puts, based on the bestselling novel and Oscar-winning film. We premiered the work in concert with the Philadelphia Orchestra in March, and it is a beautiful and powerful opera. I have a film project in the works, to be launched soon, and in 2023 I can’t wait to go on tour with the great pianist Evgeny Kissin, and to return to the Paris Opera to play Pat Nixon in John Adams’ Nixon in Chinawhich will be a new role for me.
Fleming’s performance with the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra is Saturday, June 11 at 7:30 p.m. at Kleinhans Music Hall. To purchase tickets for this weekend’s show, visit www.bpo.org or call the box office at (716) 885-5000.
This content is part of a sponsored series in partnership with the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra.