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Renée Fleming to Lead Opera at Aspen
By Michael Cooper
Aug. 4, 2019
It was as a young and, by her own description, “green” opera student at the Aspen Music Festival and School in Colorado that the soprano Renée Fleming honed her art over several summers.
Now she’s coming back to help run it.
The festival announced Monday that Ms. Fleming, one of the world’s leading singers, and the conductor Patrick Summers, the artistic and music director of the Houston Grand Opera, would take over and redesign its opera program as the program’s new artistic directors.
“I always thought I would come back to Aspen,’’ Ms. Fleming said in a joint telephone interview with Mr. Summers. “It was my escape fantasy over the years.”
Ms. Fleming, who will continue to perform, said she was drawn to the opportunity to reimagine the program to better prepare young singers for today’s intensely competitive, rapidly changing opera environment.
“Singers in the future — not only do they have to be able to sing a wide variety of repertoire, even outside the genre of classical music — they have to market themselves, they have to really almost manage themselves,” she said.
Mr. Summers added that he, too, believed that “the future of opera is going to look very, very different from what we matured into” — and that training programs needed to reflect that.
The Aspen program, which is being renamed Aspen Opera Theater and VocalArts, draws about 50 graduate, postgraduate and pre-professional singers each summer. Tuition, room and board cost $9,500 for the eight-week program, but many students get financial aid. Next year, approximately 14 singers will be named Renée Fleming Artists; their costs will be fully covered, and they will work closely with Ms. Fleming.
Ms. Fleming’s new role in Aspen, where she has taught in the past, is coming as her career has entered a new phase in recent years.
Even as she has stepped away from some of her best-known operatic roles, she has remained active in concert halls and on stages around the world. In recent months she has opened the Shed in New York, appearing with Ben Whishaw in “Norma Jeane Baker of Troy;” appeared in the musical “The Light in the Piazza” in London; given a televised outdoor concert in Munich; and sung the premiere of “The Brightness of Light,” a song cycle by the composer Kevin Puts, who is also writing an opera for the Met that she is scheduled to appear in.
But she has also been taking on offstage positions — serving recently as creative consultant at Lyric Opera of Chicago and artistic adviser at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington. (It has been a big summer for veteran singers taking educational roles: Opera Theater of St. Louis announced last week that the soprano Patricia Racette would become the artistic director of its young artist programs.)
Ms. Fleming said that she had fond memories of her student days at Aspen, and of biking each day to nearby mountains, the Maroon Bells. It was in Aspen that she first performed the role of the Countess in Mozart’s “Le Nozze di Figaro,” which she later made her debut with at the Metropolitan Opera and other top opera houses. And she praised the program for helping her develop as a singer.
“Somebody said to me when I was here, ‘You’re going to be a great Marschallin one day.’ And I said, ‘What’s a Marschallin?’”
She soon learned: The Marschallin, the bittersweet leading lady of Strauss’s “Der Rosenkavalier,” became one of her defining roles.
https://www.nytimes.com/2019/08/04/arts ... aspen.html
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