Fleming’s great-grandparents emigrated from Prague and were the first to introduce her to Czech music.
Fleming grew up in Rochester, New York, and attended SUNY Potsdam, going on to study at Juilliard, funding her education in part through jazz singing gigs.
A flute player told me that it was because she had to sit still in the orchestra and could not physically uncoil her nerves by rushing around onstage.
An actor said that it was because he had to be so emotionally naked in order to inhabit his character.
It is us, because our voices are in our bodies, so each one is unique, just as we are." Fleming is not the only performer I have met who cites the singular vulnerabilities of their art almost by way of a disclaimer.
Indeed, each micro-constituency within the performing arts seems instinctively to imply that there is something that makes it especially terrifying for them.
Renee Fleming has sung Mozart at The Metropolitan Opera, she’s sung Bellini with Theatre du Chatelet, but the most widely heard performance of her career will come Sunday night, when she’ll belt the national anthem at a freezing football stadium in New Jersey.
However, the article goes on to say that the sort of outrage Pavarotti once faced has largely abated, and characterizes some of the backlash as sour grapes: “The field is on some level so hungry for recognition that many of the artists who make pronouncements about not wanting to sell out would almost certainly leap at the chance to appear on Letterman.” For those Heavy readers with profound gambling addictions, here are some of the prop bets you can make on Renee Fleming’s performance: The Bleacher Report suggests it might be a safe bet that Flemming will go a little over her estimated time, given that she stretched Letterman’s top 10 list into an 8 minute affair.
A ballerina said it was because if a dancer fluffs the choreography they not only look silly but risk pain and a possible career-threatening injury. What they say is true of course, but it seems that, a little like love, there is something about the intense experience of stage fright, whether you are topping the bill at the Met, or skulking in the ranks of some provincial orchestra, that makes it feel like you are The Only Person On Earth Who Really Knows What This Living Hell Feels Like.
There is also something of the shame that seems to go hand-in-hand with stage fright that causes each sufferer to search for some reason why they in particular have succumbed, while their colleagues are apparently quite unruffled.
While it’s hard to think of a vocalist whose style is more antithetical to opera outside of doom metal, Fleming’s duet with Lou Reed is perhaps less strange in light of her 2010 album Dark Hope.
That album consisted of 10 indie rock covers by such artists as Arcade Fire, Band of Horses, Death Cab for Cutie, and Leonard Cohen. She was married to a stage actor named Rick Ross from 1989 until 2000, when they divorced.