Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The "People's Diva"

Okay, so among the things that rub me the wrong way about Renee Fleming - besides her singing and stage manner, I mean - is the title "the people's diva." Where on earth did this come from? It conjures up images of a Lady Bountiful strewing food, no, wait, arias to people on the street, in supermarkets, in airports, wherever she happens to be. But among Fleming's recent and upcoming engagements are the following events to which you bet I cannot get a ticket:
  • On video (!), she welcomed NATO dignitaries to the organization's 25th summit
  • On June 4, she'll sing at Buckingham Palace for Queen Elizabeth's Diamond Jubilee.  The other classical musicians are Alfie Boe (who is British) and Lang Lang (who, like Fleming, is not). Um, there isn't a British soprano good enough for Her Majesty?
  • In July, she performs at an "exclusive" IOC event, in London at the ROH.
See also: Parterre Box


Patrick J. Vaz said...

Katherine Jenkins has been busy with Dancing with the Stars, so, no, there are no British sopranos available that would be suitable for the occasion.

I think you should start calling yourself The People's Alto.

Lisa Hirsch said...

Bad idea!

Note Parterre Box on the same subject.

Tod Brody said...

I guess someone of Fleming's stature can always say no when someone asks her to do something. It seems a bit presumptuous to me to decide for someone else when that "no" should come. I seriously doubt that any of the events that you refer to were Ms. Fleming's idea; someone asked her to do it, and she agreed to. There are certainly opportunities available for the likes of us to see and hear her (I'd be happy to, sounds like you'd prefer not to). I'd go to an opera, or a recital; I wouldn't personally have the slightest desire to attend any of the events you cited.

Anyway, the overall snark of this post seems a bit much. Fine to criticize the lady's performances or to dislike her voice or the way she uses it. When I've heard her (far fewer times than you, I'm sure) it's ranged all the way from unfortunate to stellar. Good Renee Fleming is still really good, even if everything she's done hasn't reached that standard. The point is she's human; it's hard for someone so exalted by the press and public not to have an inflated ego, but from all I can see, she's a good egg.

In the spirit of friendly criticism,

All best to you, Lisa.

Tod Brody said...

One more thing: From what I've heard, the "people's diva" thing was the brainchild of her long-time (and now former) publicist. Rubs me the wrong way too, but I don't blame Fleming for it. I'm not sure how she could go about say "Don't call me that!", even if she wanted to, without sounding even more stuck-up than she strikes you.

Lisa Hirsch said...

Hi, Tod -

You may have missed the press release that set me off, from her current publicists, which on the one hand called her The People's Diva (ack) and on the other hand listed among many accomplishments the performances I listed in the posting. That contrast is what set me off. What does this People's Diva business mean, anyway? I don't think she has a particularly special relationship with the public.

Fleming herself doesn't strike me as particularly stuck up, though there are aspects of her self-presentation - when I've seen her speaking at galas and so on - that seriously rub me the wrong way.

I am not a fan of her singing, though I was pleasantly surprised by her appearance recently on A Prairie Home Companion. What was different? She almost always sounds stiff and unimaginative to me in opera and classical song, but in the (pop) numbers she sang on PHC, she demonstrated far more rhythmic swing and imagination than I would have expected based on prior experience. Wish she'd let her hair down more in classical music, where she so often sounds straightjacketed.