Fleming in Tucson on her musical marathon

2014-05-01T00:00:00Z Fleming in Tucson on her musical marathonBy Cathalena E. Burch Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

Celebrated Metropolitan Opera soprano Renée Fleming  is in Las Vegas tonight and in Tucson Sunday.

Then she scoots over to Mesa before she hits Los Angeles later this month to sing the role of Blanche DuBois in three performances of “Streetcar Named Desire.”

In vocal terms, that’s akin to a marathon.

Naturally, Fleming, 55,  is trying to preserve her voice so she wasn’t available for a phone interview. But she did chat with us in an email interview about her show and her star turn singing the National Anthem during this year’s Super Bowl in February.

Her concert here is the long-awaited encore to her nearly sold-out recital in 2002 at Centennial Hall, where she performs Sunday.

What will you be singing on Sunday?

“The program is called ‘Guilty Pleasures.’ The title comes from the fact that I’ve really indulged in musical cherry-picking. The thematic connection of the songs and arias is their sheer beauty. These are things I’ve always loved singing, or wanted to sing. So you’ll hear a wide range of composers, languages and styles. There are pieces by Mozart, Handel, Rachmaninoff, Strauss, Dvorák, and even Rodgers and Hammerstein.”

You’re here on Sunday and in Mesa 90 minutes away on Wednesday. Do you get to take the time between to play tourist?

“Most people don’t know this, but two days between recitals is not a lot. Singing a full program of music without amplification is a major undertaking, so I’ll have to take it easy. But I love being a tourist, and I’ll definitely want to see what I can in Arizona. I like walking, wherever I am (in good weather). Modern and contemporary art is a real passion of mine so I tend to head to museums and galleries wherever I find them.”

Would you rate singing the National Anthem at the Super Bowl as a career highlight?

“It was one of the most exciting moments I’ve experienced as a performer. The 111.5 million viewers watching live were probably more than have seen me at all my other performances combined. I don’t mind admitting I was nervous in the days and weeks leading up to it. I had a tremendous sense of obligation, to give a performance that would satisfy the hundreds of people who wrote letters about how much the anthem means to them. I heard from many servicemen and women, from around the country and even in my own family, and they really wanted to hear a respectful rendition. This is the 200th anniversary year of ‘The Star-Spangled Banner,’ so that heightened it further. And as the first classical singer ever asked to do this at the Super Bowl, I felt I had to represent classical singing to a whole new audience, potentially. It probably comes as no surprise that I was waking up in the middle of the night, for weeks beforehand, with the lyrics running through my head.”

In the role of Blanche DuBois, is there more self-inflicted pressure to really own this given that composer André Previn wrote the role for you?

“Blanche is a huge challenge, emotionally. This is an iconic character in American theater, and her fragility and destruction are heartbreaking. I do think of it as a great responsibility to perform a role that André wrote for me. But the fact that André worked with me while he composed, and tailored it to my voice, makes it a joy to sing.”

And one last crazy question: If I snagged your iPod and hit play what would I hear?

“Right now you’d hear music that I’m working on for a Christmas album to come out in the fall. I’m really excited about it. I’m singing new jazz and pop arrangements, with a lot of guest stars who might surprise you.”

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