Classical & More

Video: Renée Fleming on How to Be a Diva

The world-class soprano visits Seattle this weekend. As a warmup, watch her give vocal tips to a nervous-looking college student.

By Laura Dannen March 14, 2012

Photo: Courtesy Andrew Eccles

Renowned American soprano Renée Fleming, who joins conductor Ludovic Morlot and Seattle Symphony at Benaroya Hall this Friday, has long been considered “the people’s diva.” Sure, it seems a contradiction in terms—do divas like football and beer?—but just watch her conduct a master class for Harvard students in the video below. She’s warm, charming, and most shocking of all, self-deprecating. The diva can crack a joke. One of my favorite tips she offers: Only sing operas that end in tragedy. “I made the mistake of singing one happy-ending piece at the Met and I got complaints in the mail," she deadpans.

Her humility belies her star power—she’s practically the face of Metropolitan Opera—and her fiercely powerful range, both vocally and emotionally. She walks the walk, coaching students to add tension, passion, or anger to different phrases in their performance. “Otherwise, it’s just a song.”

For her upcoming Seattle concert, Fleming will reinforce her ’people’s diva’ image with a program that spans classical, rock, and indie music. The lineup jumps from Ravel’s Shéhérazade to Gounod’s ‘The Jewel Song,’ to Leonard Cohen’s ‘Hallelujah,’ Muse’s ‘Endlessly’ and Death Cab for Cutie’s ‘Soul Meets Body’ (the latter are selections from Fleming’s 2010 pop album, Dark Hope). Fleming has long been a fan of eclectic music that crosses genre lines, she told The Seattle Times; and even after singing 52 different opera roles, she’s mostly avoided the standards: the Verdi and Puccini heroines. Together with Morlot, another champion of blurred boundaries, Fleming could very well be rocking Benaroya Hall on Friday.

Renee Fleming with Ludovic Morlot and Seattle Symphony
Mar 16 @ 8, Benaroya Hall, tickets still available from $71–$180

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