Viewpoint: Pleasant Surprises
Almost twenty years ago, as a new Metropolitan Opera season was beginning, one of the most eagerly awaited events of 1993–94 was the company’s new production of Otello, conducted by Valery Gergiev, in his Met debut, and directed by Elijah Moshinsky. What nobody really anticipated was the historic significance of the fifth performance of the run, on April 6, when Renée Fleming — the second-cast Desdemona — knocked the Met back on its heels with her first company performances of Otello. Then in her fourth season on the Met roster, Fleming demonstrated that she had the voice, the poise and the warmth of an international-class lyric soprano and the strength of purpose to hold the stage with Plácido Domingo and Sergei Leiferkus, her Otello and Iago on that occasion. She was stunning. In the years since then, Fleming’s Desdemona has graced the Met’s opening-night gala in 1995, a 1995 Metropolitan Opera Presents telecast, several satellite and terrestrial radio broadcasts from the Met, runs in Paris and London and the opening night of Lyric Opera of Chicago’s 2001–02 season. (On the last occasion, Fleming’s Cassio was a young German tenor making his U.S. debut, Jonas Kaufmann.) Next month, Fleming stars with Johan Botha and Falk Struckmann in The Met: Live in HD transmission of Verdi’s Otello on October 27.
This will be an unusually full season for Fleming, who is in Dresden this month for a program of Wolf lieder to be conducted by Christian Thielemann. The rest of Fleming’s autumn and early-winter schedule holds recitals and concerts in North and South America and Europe. Fleming will also have a residency in Carnegie Hall’s Perspectives series during the upcoming season; offerings there include a duo-recital with her longtime colleague and friend Susan Graham; a special concert with Alan Gilbert and the New York Philharmonic; and a Carnegie Hall concert performance of André Previn’s A Streetcar Named Desire, with Fleming singing Blanche DuBois, the role she created at the opera’s 1998 world premiere. Streetcar then moves on to Lyric Opera of Chicago — where Fleming has held the title of creative consultant since 2010 — for a four-performance run.
It’s a pretty safe bet that Fleming had no idea in April 1994 what the coming years would hold for her, or for the industry in which she has made her career. That will be useful to remember as the current season progresses; wonderful things can happen when you least expect them.
This month, OPERA NEWS introduces a new series, “Listener of Note,” in which distinguished opera fans share their thoughts on the art form. Brian Kellow’s interview with James Ivory can be found here.
The 2012–13 season marks the eighth presentation of the annual OPERA NEWS Awards. Our honorees this year are sopranos Mirella Freni and Dawn Upshaw, countertenor David Daniels, baritone Simon Keenlyside and bass-baritone Eric Owens. OPERA NEWS will salute these five distinguished artists at a gala dinner at the Plaza Hotel in Manhattan on Sunday evening, April 21. We are again sponsoring a sweepstakes that will offer the winner a trip to New York, with airfare provided by American Airlines and hotel accommodations by Trump International Hotel and Tower. Details are available at www.operanews.com/onawards.
F. PAUL DRISCOLL
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