Renee Fleming bidding goodbye to staged opera performance?

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Renee Fleming attends the New Museum 40th Anniversary Spring Gala at Cipriani Wall Street on April 4, 2017 in New York City. | Photo by Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images

The New York Times today published a lengthy profile of opera legend Renee Fleming, writing of the soprano’s intentto perhaps step down from full-on staged opera performance.

In the article by Charles McGrath, the Times reveals the 58-year-old will sing what may be her final performance in New York:

Robert Carsen’s new staging of Rosenkavalier, which had its debut in London this winter and opens at the Metropolitan Opera on Thursday, April 13, emphasizes the theme of change and upheaval by moving the setting from 18th-century Vienna to the moment when the piece was written, at the twilight of the Hapsburg Empire and the eve of World War I. It becomes an opera about the end of an era, or even the end of the world. For Renée Fleming, the superstar soprano who will sing the Marschallin at the Met, and for music, this really is the end of an era: This Rosenkavalier may well be her farewell to staged opera. She will sing her final performance on the afternoon of Saturday, May 13. … Ms. Fleming insisted that she wouldn’t stop singing entirely but that she was just changing her focus. She plans to give more concerts (which, though she didn’t say so, are both easier and far more lucrative than singing staged opera), make more records, find new music to sing, and spend more time at the Lyric Opera of Chicago, where she was named creative consultant in 2010. (Some have speculated that position might be a steppingstone to running an opera company herself.) She said she was even thinking of getting involved in an internet start-up for streaming arts programs.

About her impending “retirement,” the Times article reports:

Ms. Fleming doesn’t have much interest in becoming a figure like Adelina Patti, the hugely popular 19th- and early-20th-century opera star who went around, like Cher, giving farewell concerts for 20 years after she retired. What she wants is to keep on singing, a reasonable amount for a reasonable amount of time, and to be a part of whatever happens next. While the prognosis is not particularly good for the grand-opera landscape she dominated, she sounded determined and upbeat about the future. … I feel like we’ve been left out of the conversation, and we have a lot to offer technically, she said recently. I guess it’s the ivory tower and all that, but I’m trying to open the door again. I think my contribution now is to think about audience development, about supporting young artists, and the development of the art form.

Read the full story here.

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