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Wednesday, February 5, 2014

A Critic's Notebook: Super Bowl Champion Renée Fleming moves on to conquer movie theaters

Even though I don't follow sports, it was exciting to hear a few weeks ago that Renée Fleming would be participating in something called the Super Bowl on Sunday. It was even more exciting to wake up Monday morning and find out that she totally won! Congrats, Renée! Haters gonna hate, but she truly is the people's diva.

FAST BREAK: Soprano Renée Fleming poses with a baseball shortly before scoring a slam dunk at the Super Bowl with her performance of the national anthem.
  • FAST BREAK: Soprano Renée Fleming poses with a baseball shortly before scoring a slam dunk at the Super Bowl with her performance of the national anthem.
Those who are curious to see and hear more from the superstar soprano who sang (actually sang! live! without lip-syncing! or Auto-Tune!) the national anthem before the big game can check out this Saturday's (Feb. 8) live broadcast of the Metropolitan Opera's production of Antonín Dvořák's Rusalka at 12:55 p.m. EST to movie theaters around the world, including several in the Atlanta area. The broadcast will have an encore screening at 6:30 p.m. local time on Wed., Feb. 12.

Rusalka, which basically tells the same classic fairy-tale story as The Little Mermaid, features Fleming performing as a lovelorn water nymph, a signature role that helped bring her to worldwide attention. Fleming first came to national prominence when she won the Met's National Council Auditions in 1988 singing Rusalka's most famous aria, "Song to the Moon." She has sung the role of Rusalka more than any other artist in Met history.

Get tickets early online. Even before it was announced that Fleming would sing the national anthem at the Super Bowl, followers were already predicting that the broadcast would likely become one of the most popularly attended screenings in the HD series' history. "Hearing her live has become nearly a surreal experience, a Parnassus of the operatic world," writes the Classical Music Network. You don't just walk up and buy tickets to Parnassus btw.

I was lucky enough to be a ticket-holder to Parnassus 15 years ago when Fleming performed at Spivey Hall for what I believe was her one and only Atlanta appearance. For the bulk of the concert she performed art songs by Richard Strauss, but then she totally made up for it by doing six incredible encores, including a gorgeous, unforgettable performance of "Song to the Moon."

It's also interesting to note that many longtime Atlanta opera fans may have seen Fleming perform very early in her career, pre-Super Bowl, pre-Spivey, pre-Met debut. In 1987, Fleming sang a supporting role in the opera Platee at Charleston's Spoleto Festival (The New York Times reviewed the show, but didn't mention Fleming). She returned to Spoleto in 1989 to sing the more substantive and familiar role of the Countess in a production of Mozart's The Marriage of Figaro. She made her Metropolitan Opera debut as the Countess in 1991. Spoleto, Charleston's annual performing arts festival, which always draws its share of Atlanta art lovers, has featured many musicians and artists (including Fleming and Yo-Yo Ma) early in their careers before they go on to become household names. The festival takes place this year from May 23-June 8.

Anyway, it's been nice to learn a little bit more about this whole Super Bowl thing that people tend to mention from time to time. But I still can't get over "Opera Singer Plans to Perform National Anthem ... LIVE!" as a news headline. Listen to yourselves, hockey fans.

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