November 12, 2020

Spotlight on Renée Fleming

Renée Fleming is no stranger to Lyric Opera of Chicago. While the Grammy Award-winning soprano has performed at every major opera house around the world, on the soundtracks of Oscar-winning films, and even at the Super Bowl, we have been proud to call her a member of the Lyric family for more than 25 years.

In 1993, Fleming made her Lyric debut in Carlisle Floyd’s Susannah, and captured the hearts of audiences. Since then, she has appeared in nine roles, most recently as Hanna Glawari in The Merry Widow (2015/16 Season), and as Countess Madeleine in Capriccio (2014/15 Season). In addition, she has participated in eight gala concerts, a duo recital with Susan Graham in 2013, and headlined the virtual concert For the Love of Lyric

Renée Fleming in her 1993 Lyric role debut in Susannah with Michael Myers as Sam.

While Fleming has countless operatic roles underneath her belt, the four-time Grammy Award-winner has also successfully branched out into the world of musical theater. Recently she was seen as Margaret Johnson in Adam Guettel and Craig Lucas’ The Light in the Piazza, which premiered in London, Los Angeles, and at the Lyric Opera House in December 2019. Fleming also received a Tony Award® nomination for the 2018 revival of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Carousel, for her role as Nettie Fowler. 

Renée Fleming in the Scenario Two production of Light in the Piazza at the Lyric Opera House.

At Lyric, Fleming has been an active leader in reaching and developing new audiences. She serves as an advisor to The Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan Opera Center, as well as a Community Ambassador to Lyric’s Learning and Creative Engagement department. In 2010, Fleming was named Lyric’s first Creative Consultant; a title she held until recently, when she moved into the role of Special Projects Advisor.

Renée Fleming master class with Ryan Opera Center alumna Whitney Morrison. 

Over the years, Fleming has been a driving force behind many of Lyric’s most exciting projects. In 2012, she brought about the company’s first collaboration with The Second City as well as the multi-year Chicago Voices initiative. In 2015, she curated the world premiere opera Bel Canto (López/Cruz) from its inception. The multi-genre Chicago Voices Gala and Bel Canto were both seen by national audiences as Lyric returned to PBS’s Great Performances after more than 20 years. 

Fleming and the Bel Canto creative team during a working session.

While her performance record is outstanding, her advocacy for the world of music is an accomplishment that should also not be forgotten. In 2013, she was awarded the National Medal of Arts by President Obama for being an advocate of the arts.

Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, Fleming launched “Music and Mind LIVE”, a weekly series focusing on the intersectionality of music, neuroscience, and healthcare. Fleming has also collaborated with the National Institutes of Health in her role as Artistic Advisor at Large to the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts to further explore those topics with the Sound Health initiative. Fleming also serves on the board of Sing for Hope, a New York City-based non-profit dedicated to increasing access to high-quality art programs in under-served communities. 

While maintaining strong ties to Lyric, Fleming also acts as the co-artistic director for the Aspen Opera Theater and VocalARTS. During the 2018/19 season at Carnegie Hall, Fleming led a new program for young vocalists called SongStudio. 

Fleming in the 2020/21 Season virtual concert, For the Love of Lyric with pianist Robert Ainsley. 

The soprano’s vocal talent and artistry is beyond impressive, but Fleming’s commitment to advocating the importance of music and her continued service to the community demonstrates the lasting impact she will have on the world of music.

Header: Renée Fleming 25th Anniversary Concert, 2018/19 Season. (Todd Rosenberg)

All other images: Liz Lauren, Dan Rest, Jaclyn Simpson,Scott Suchman Photo