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Legendary soprano visits U-M students

By Betsy Goolian

Students of voice at the School of Music, Theatre & Dance had a rare treat Saturday, Jan. 15 when Renée Fleming (below right), soprano and one of the most celebrated singers of our time, stopped by Stamps Auditorium for an afternoon questions-and-answer session. She was in Ann Arbor to sing on the University Musical Society roster and to receive the Ford Honors Program’s 2011 Distinguished Artist Award.

Martin Katz, professor of collaborative piano, introduced Ms. Fleming as one of the most versatile singers in the world. She generously gave the students an hour and a half of her time, often breaking up the room with her sly, self-deprecating humor.

She took questions from the audience and answered them honestly, sharing what she’s learned in her illustrious—and extremely busy—career. She is booked through 2015 in a demanding schedule of recitals, operas, and concerts. She recently released a new CD, Dark Hope, a compilation of pop songs, which she had been enticed to do.

“I expected to get a horrible bashing in the media,” she said, “but it was very well received.” She had to drop her voice a register for the recording, in which her two daughters and her sister sang as well.

“Your job is not perfection,” she told students. “It’s to be within a 10% range of your best singing.” She never walks off the stage thinking, “that was perfect.” For her, the point is to bring a 120% commitment to the performance. She is a firm believer in doing the hard vocal training to prepare for performances.

Ms. Fleming recently accepted the position of Creative Consultant for Lyric Opera of Chicago. Read more about her visit in the spring 2011 Michigan Muse.

Betsy Goolian is a writer/editor for the University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre and Dance.