Renée Fleming has an exceptional vocal range that allows her to sing the major lyric, dramatic and sometimes even coloratura soprano roles. These technical qualities, combined with her warm timbre and physical charisma make her one of the greatest sopranos today.
Renée Fleming's parents were music teachers. She spent her childhood in Rochester, in the state of New York. She learnt the piano, violin and singing, and took an early interest in jazz, pop and traditional music. She worked on her classical singing with Jan De Gaetani in Rochester, then went to Europe to study with Arleen Auger and Elisabeth Schwarzkopf. She later returned to the United States and the Juilliard School in New York. She debuted her career in New York in 1980, singing in small local concerts. In 1986, she was given her first major role: Konstanze in Mozart' Die Entführung aus dem Serail in Salzburg. In 1988, she debuted at the Houston Grand Opera, in 1989 at the New York City Opera and then in Covent Garden in London. In the 1990s, she was acclaimed in the biggest roles: the Contessa in Le nozze di Figaro by Mozart, Mimi in La bohème by Puccini, and Rusalka in the eponymous opera by Dvorak. 1991 marked a turning point in her career. She made an earlier than expected debut at the Metropolitan Opera in 1991 replacing an ill Felicity Lott, then went on to sing at the San Francisco Opera and Carnegie Hall. She added new roles to her repertoire: Anna in La dame blanche by Boieldieu, Adelaïde in La straniera by Bellini, Pamina in Die Zauberflöte by Mozart, and Desdemona in Otello by Verdi. In 1995, she signed an exclusive recording contract with Decca, a rare occurrence in the classical music world.
In 1997, she triumphed as the Marschallin in Der Rosenkavalier by Strauss at the Opéra Bastille. This role became one of her signature roles in the early 2000s, notably at Covent Garden and in San Francisco. In 2002, she contributed to the recording of the original soundtrack of The Lord of the Rings, composed by Howard Shore. In 2006, with the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, she celebrated the 250th anniversary of the birth of Mozart in a concert that was broadcast all over the world. In 2009, she sang in the first performance of Le temps l'horloge by Dutilleux, conducted by Ozawa, at the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées. In 2013, she was presented with the National Medal of Arts, the highest award presented to artists by the United States government, by Barack Obama in person. She has received many other awards over her career, including the Richard Tucker Award, Grammy Awards and the Victoire d'honneur in France. She has contributed to recording around 20 operas (on CD or DVD), including Rusalka by Dvorak, Manon by Massenet, Le nozze di Figaro by Mozart, Rodelinda by Handel and La traviata by Verdi. She has also recorded solo albums, notably the Four Last Songs by Strauss, Schubert Lieder and Handel Arias.
Six landmark dates in the life of Renée Fleming:
- 1986: first major role: Konstanze in Mozart's Die Entführung aus dem Serail in Salzburg
- 1995: signed an exclusive recording contract with Decca
- 1997: triumphed at the Opéra Bastille in Der Rosenkavalier by Strauss
- 1999: Grammy Award for her CD The Beautiful Voice
- 2006: took part in the celebration of the 250th anniversary of Mozart's birth
- 2010: Grammy Awards for her CD Verismo
Official website: www.reneefleming.com/
Biography compiled from Radio France documentation, April 2017