Viewpoint: Changing Stages


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Fleming and her husband, Tim Jessell, at the 2013 Lyric Opera Ball
© Cheri Eisenberg 2014

In December 2010, Lyric Opera of Chicago announced that Renée Fleming had been appointed to the newly created position of the company’s creative consultant. The news raised some eyebrows. Fleming, then (and now) one of the most popular and well-respected sopranos in the classical-music arena, had given no indication that she was moving away from a performing career — far from it. The week of the announcement in Chicago, Fleming sang a massive subscriber-appreciation concert with Andrew Davis and the Lyric Opera Orchestra. Later on in that 2010–11 season, Fleming starred in Metropolitan Opera revivals of Rossini’s Armida and Richard Strauss’s Capriccio, an opera that she was rehearsing at the Civic Opera House on the day in late September 2014 when her cover portrait was taken for this issue of OPERA NEWS. 

In the onstage portrait of Fleming, you can see the beautiful auditorium of the Civic Opera House behind her. What you can’t see is what Fleming was looking at — the elegant Mauro Pagano set for Capriccio, which is where photographer Todd Rosenberg was at work while the Lyric Orchestra was on a rehearsal break. Time was extraordinarily tight for this shoot, but thanks to the generous participation (and meticulous preparation) of Fleming’s colleagues at Lyric Opera and her own staff, Rosenberg got the pictures he needed. Scarcely an hour after photography was finished, Fleming was back in the auditorium with her Capriccio colleagues, singing in a sitzprobe with Lyric music director Andrew Davis. The following night, when Lyric Opera celebrated the opening of its diamond-anniversary season, Fleming was in the auditorium once again — this time seated in the front row, applauding Mariusz Kwiecien, Ana María Martínez and their colleagues in a brand-new staging of Don Giovanni.

Almost four years into her tenure at Lyric, Fleming has proved herself to be a visible, energetic and effective advocate for the company — and for the art form — while maintaining a full schedule of concerts, recitals and opera-house appearances. In the month of September alone, Fleming sang in the New York Philharmonic’s opening-night gala, opened the season with San Antonio Symphony at the Tobin Center for the Performing Arts and began her Chicago run in Capriccio. This month, she finishes out the year with a new Merry Widow staging at the Metropolitan Opera. An impressive list of singers has taken on management positions after their days onstage were over. Few, if any, have done what Fleming has done, but being in two places at once is the type of challenge she has always thrived on. spacer 


CORRECTIONS: Countertenor Anthony Roth Costanzo made his San Francisco Opera debut in Handel’s Partenope, not Tolomeo, as stated in “Counter Programming” (Oct.).

The review of Ramón Vargas and Charles Spencer’s “Verdi Lieder” was written by Henson Keys, not Fred Cohn, as stated in “Recordings” (Nov.).


The opinions expressed in OPERA NEWS do not necessarily represent the views of The Metropolitan Opera Guild or The Metropolitan Opera.


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Current Issue: December 2014 — VOL. 79, NO. 6