The evening of April 25th marked the culmination of Opera America’s Onstage at the Opera Center season. Renée Fleming was the final guest of the Conversations series hosted by the President of Opera America, Marc Scorca.

The acclaimed soprano has been honored with the National Medal of Arts by President Obama, she is the winner of the 2013 Grammy Award for Best Classical Vocal Solo, has sung for significant events and new audiences – from the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony to the Super Bowl, and in 2008 became the first woman in the Metropolitan Opera’s history to solo headline an opening night gala. Among her signature roles are: Contessa (Le nozze di Figaro), Rusalka (Rusalka), Marschallin (Der Rosenkavalier), Desdemona (Otello), Ariadne (Ariadne aux Naxos), and Thaïs (Thaïs).

As a matter of fact, during the discussion, Renée Fleming stated that she has about 55 roles in her repertoire by now, and added that she had always been a fan of variety. She has sung masterworks from Mozart to Strauss, obscure pieces, new music, and a lot of concert and recital repertoire. However demanding that may be, it feeds her creativity and she prefers to take on roles that she can invent for the first time, while she especially enjoys working with living composers. She is a real advocate of new music and believes that it can really liberate a singer. Particularly in our era, she finds that there are more composers who can write well for voice and the audiences show more interest in these creations.

Photo by Noah Stern Weber

When asked about the new American operas, Renée Fleming expressed the opinion that they are becoming more accessible to European audiences, but emphasized on the fact that there is still a great need for more female composers and librettists as well as for strong, three-dimensional female characters. Reminding us of a similar statement by Meryl Streep, she said that for her age, the only available roles are witches or old ladies.