Lyric Opera of Chicago’s Renée Fleming Wears Her Creative Consultant Hat in Chicago and On the Road
All season long, between – and sometimes even during – her high-profile international appearances, Renée Fleming has also been active as creative consultant to Lyric Opera of Chicago. Since her five-year term was announced in December 2010, the star soprano has played a leadership role in creating new projects and initiatives designed to increase opera audiences and raise awareness of the art form, and in championing Chicago as a cultural center.
At Lyric’s annual meeting of the board of directors on May 14, general director Anthony Freud praised her many contributions to date in this capacity:
“When Renée took on this new position, she said her goals were to curate a world premiere, expand Lyric’s educational and community engagement programming, foster new community partnerships, and initiate new marketing efforts for Lyric.
“She accomplished all these things this season. A new partnership with the Merit School of Music is thriving; she was instrumental in Lyric’s new branding campaign, which generated impressive buzz for Lyric within the media and the community; she joined with CSO creative consultant Yo-Yo Ma for work in the education sector as well as in a surprise ‘pop-up’ concert in the State of Illinois’s James R. Thompson Center; and in February 2012, Lyric announced its first world premiere since 2004-05.
“With Fleming as curator, Lyric will present Bel Canto, by composer Jimmy López and librettist Nilo Cruz, in its 2015-16 season. The new opera is based on the prizewinning American novel by Ann Patchett; Sir Andrew Davis will conduct, Stephen Wadsworth will direct, and Danielle de Niese will star.”
The “People’s Diva” also performed in two Lyric presentations this season: for over 16,000 people at “Stars of Lyric Opera at Millennium Park” – a free, open-air concert last September – and with baritone Dmitri Hvorostovsky at the Civic Opera House for Lyric’s Subscriber Appreciation Concert in January.
Wearing her Lyric hat, Fleming is an ambassador for culture and the arts. This past weekend, on video, she welcomed visiting dignitaries to Chicago from around the world, for NATO’s 25th summit. In July she will perform at an exclusive International Olympic Committee event at London’s Royal Opera House.
HBO will premiere a special Renée Fleming YoungArts MasterClass on May 28 in which the opera legend mentors four talented young opera students at Lyric Opera of Chicago, New York City’s Juilliard School, the New Jersey Performing Arts Center, and her own apartment. A week later, on June 4, Fleming will perform for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee at Buckingham Palace in London. The star-studded line-up also includes Paul McCartney, Elton John, Grace Jones, Sir Tom Jones, and Stevie Wonder. ABC-TV will broadcast the Jubilee festivities at prime time on June 5.
Among her many educational outreach activities for Lyric this season, Fleming conducted master classes in person and on Skype with students from one of Chicago’s leading community music schools, the Merit School of Music, as part of its new solo voice program for teens.
Fleming integrates her creative consultant work for Lyric into a packed calendar of performances and media appearances as one of the music world’s most recognizable and in-demand stars. She starred in her own Live From Lincoln Center television broadcast from the Kaplan Penthouse, hosted multiple Met: Live in HD broadcasts beamed to movie theaters around the world, and sang on the Oscar-nominated soundtrack of Steven Spielberg’s movie Tintin. In other wide-ranging appearances, she reprised her comedy role as Renata Flambé on Garrison Keillor’s popular radio show, A Prairie Home Companion; was featured in a live Q&A session for SiriusXM’s Town Hall with Renée Fleming; and joined Daniel Libeskind, Michael Kaiser, and Victoria Newhouse in a panel discussion of the architecture and acoustics of new opera houses, on television’s Charlie Rose Show.
Fleming’s major engagements this past season included singing the title roles in the Metropolitan Opera’s Rodelinda and San Francisco Opera’s Lucrezia Borgia; making her role debut as Ariadne in a new production of Ariadne auf Naxos in Baden-Baden; and appearing with the Met Orchestra at Carnegie Hall. The three-time Grammy Award-winner also toured the U.S. with orchestra, performing songs from her new best-selling Decca CD, Poèmes, and joined actor Alec Baldwin for Love Letters: a theatrical evening at Carnegie’s Zankel Hall.
In February, Fleming received the Victoire d’Honneur, the highest award conveyed by the French Victoires de la Musique, and this past weekend she was awarded an Honorary Doctorate by Carnegie Mellon University.
The soprano’s busy schedule continues this summer, when she sings the title role of Arabella at the Paris Opera; the Marschallin in Der Rosenkavalier at Bavarian State Opera; and concerts with the London Symphony Orchestra under Valery Gergiev and the Staatskapelle Dresden with Christian Thielemann. She is also curating a series for Carnegie Hall as the venue’s Perspectives artist in the 2012-13 season.
In coming seasons at Lyric, in addition to her “behind the scenes” work, Fleming is scheduled to appear as Blanche DuBois, the role that was created for her, in staged concert performances of André Previn’s A Streetcar Named Desire (spring 2013); sing the Countess in Strauss’s Capriccio (fall 2014); and participate in Lyric’s 60th Anniversary Gala (Nov 1, 2014). Many of her consultancy projects are in development, and will continue to be implemented over the coming seasons: stay tuned!
About Lyric Opera of Chicago:
Founded in 1954, Lyric Opera of Chicago is one of the world’s great opera companies, renowned internationally for its artistic excellence and financial strength. In October 2011, Lyric entered a new era of leadership under incoming general director Anthony Freud. Besides creative consultant Renée Fleming, the company’s artistic team also includes music director Sir Andrew Davis.
Lyric recently announced that the company achieved break-even for fiscal year 2012, and has operated in the black for 24 of its past 25 years – a record among the country’s major not-for-profit performing arts institutions. At the board of directors’ annual meeting on May 14, Freud also announced that Sir Andrew Davis had extended his contract as Lyric’s music director through the 2020-21 season.
HBO special, filmed partially at Lyric:
HBO’s “YoungArts MasterClass” special with Renée Fleming premieres on May 28 at 6pm EST. Click here to view trailer.