Superstar soprano Renée Fleming will be joining Andris Nelsons and the Boston Symphony Orchestra for an all-star concert version of Strauss’ elegant, supremely moving Der Rosenkavalier.
Marschallin is one of Fleming’s signature roles, and here she will reunite with Susan Graham’s Octavian and Franz Halwata’s Baron Ochs.
Here, Fleming talks about touring, working with Andris Nelsons for the first time, and why this Rosenkavalier is such a big deal.
You have a very busy travel schedule and you’re constantly touring. It must take a very specific kind of stamina to do what you do and keep your voice strong. What is that like for you?
It does take a lot of strength and you have to be, obviously, very healthy. If you’re on a plane every three days you can be fragile when it comes to getting colds and things. It’s a lot of schlepping of luggage, but it’s also really enjoyable. I think you can almost become addicted to this lifestyle; to stop becomes really hard. I have to have a little bit of repose between engagements, so I won’t do more than two a week or three, at the most. But I really love it. I have to say, it gives me a tremendous joy to share with the audience and to have the kind of experiences that I get to have, particularly in concert when I’m developing a rapport with the audience and talking to them. I love that.
Touring is a really important part of keeping opera, in general, pulsing through the country. Not every city has an opera company.
Right. The HD broadcasts from the Met have made a difference in that you can see the crème de la crème versions of some of these operas in movie theaters, but otherwise, you’re right. And also, we’re not amplified. I think people are always surprised that the human voice can make these sounds that can fill a hall and be, hopefully, beautiful at the same time. It’s a very special thing.
Speaking of lasts, you had said that the upcoming production of Rosenkavalier that you’re doing at the Met next spring would be it for you. Do you still stand by that?
Yes. You know what it is: The standard repertory, the mainstream repertory of opera, there aren’t that many roles that I would continue to sing. Rosenkavalier, I could sing forever, but I don’t want to. I’m just not a big repeater of things over and over again. I’m open to doing new works and interesting projects and, of course, I’ll continue to tour, but I don’t want to just keep singing a couple of roles. This just feels like the right thing to me. Leontyne Price actually coached me on this, and I’m kind of doing exactly what she did in terms of timing. And then she concertized and, I don’t know that I would be able to accomplish this, but she continued to tour for another 14 years after she stopped singing opera. Pretty amazing.
Tell me about this Rosenkavalier with the BSO.
This is a big deal. I actually can’t believe the Boston Symphony is putting on this opera in concert. It’s so massive. The cast, everything about it. It’s a major, major production. One interesting thing that no one would know is that Susan Graham—who is singing Octavian, the lead in this opera—the last time we did it together at the Met, she said it was her last. So for her to come out of Octavian retirement and do these concerts is a big deal. I think a lot of people will come just to hear her in this role again. We did it together a lot over the years, also with Franz Hawlata, who is singing Ochs, and I’m personally really excited to be coming back to this. Insiders will view this as a reunion of sorts. I’m really excited to work with Andris Nelsons. I have heard nothing but amazing things about him. For me, the collaboration I enjoy the most is always with the conductor, and so I’m very excited to see what it’s like working with him and what he brings to the piece. It’s a piece that I’ve done a lot, so he’s going to put his own stamp on it, and I’m interested to see what that is.
DER ROSENKAVALIER. 9.29 & 10.1 AT THE BOSTON SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA AT SYMPHONY HALL, 301 MASS. AVE., BOSTON. BSO.ORG
Theater critic for TheaterMania & WBUR’s TheArtery | Theater Editor for DigBoston | film and music critic for EDGE Media | Boston Theater Critics Association.