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Renee Fleming discusses her opera career

BROADCAST: Feb. 12, 1996 | DURATION: 00:27:04


Renee Fleming discusses her musical upbringing, her repertoire, her relationship to performance, and more.


Tap within the transcript to jump to that part of the audio.


Studs Terkel Yeah. We know that passage, very brief, from the very celebrated "Jewel Song" from Gounod's "Faust", and that voice is the voice you'll hear more and more about. And those who have heard her will not forget her. That's Renee Fleming, of course, who is Marguerite. There's one more chance to see her as Marguerite in "Faust" with her colleagues [Jim?] Leech as Faust and Sam Ramey as--Sam Ramey as Mephistopheles and [your friends with] Dmitri Hvorostovsky as Valentin. Well, one more, and that's February 19th.

Renee Fleming That's right--

Studs Terkel Your last shot to hear--

Renee Fleming The last one, mm-hmm.

Studs Terkel Now, we also, a great many of us, saw you on the, on that telecast from the Met, public television on WFMT, as Desdemona in "Otello". And of course, what was said there, this is--by the way, she's just a generous-heart and offered to sing a song or two, or a phrase or two. We'll hear some of her CDs. But Martin Bernheimer, the music critic of "The New York Times", on seeing, hearing her as Desdemona in "Otello", opposite Placido Domingo and James Morris--two big guns--said, "In her prime, Fleming," my guest, Renee Fleming, "commands"--get this--"the gleaming, timbral warmth of Renata Tebaldi at her best. The simplicity of Juriac, and the urgency"--oh!--"the sensitivity of Schwarzkopf," who is your teacher, too, in master class--

Renee Fleming That's right.

Studs Terkel We'll talk about that. "And the pianissimo floats, the pianissimo tones worthy of Zinka Milanov." Well, that's a pretty good combo. [laughter]

Renee Fleming Well, especially coming from Martin Bernheimer, who's with "The L.A. Times", actually, he's--

Studs Terkel "L.A.

Renee Fleming Times". A very tough critic. He's been around for a long time, and he's one of the people that everyone looks to. So I just figured after I read that review that I better retire now, because it's never going to be any better [laughter].

Studs Terkel But see, it wasn't just he, that's the point. There's no point in reading the various reviews that she's received, or [unintelligible] the Countess in in "Figaro", "The Marriage of Figaro". We'll come to that. How you came to be the singer you are, and, obviously, you're there, we know that, just seeing you and hearing you. So, how you came--how did this begin? You're from Ro--your parents both were vocal music teachers.

Renee Fleming My parents [were? are?] both high school vocal music teachers in Rochester, New York, and I had an upbringing that is, really the envy of a lot of singers, because we discussed at the dinner table singing technique, and they discussed their students every day, and I--that was normal to me. In fact, it was boring. I was remotely--wasn't remotely interested in it and, but it was part of--I sang and performed as other children do other activities as a perfectly normal part of every day.

Studs Terkel So that's how it began. But then, the idea of your singing--

Renee Fleming Mhm.

Studs Terkel As a kid too, but was there--Now we come to the question of confidence in yourself or lack of it.

Renee Fleming Mhm. Yeah, I went through a period, definitely, where I had to work on that, and it was a kind of an issue of stage fright and of--in a way, my ambitions were greater than my abilities at the time, and for several years I was auditioning with pieces that were, really, I couldn't command very well. And when I finally caught up to that is when I developed some more confidence and did well. But I sang jazz in college for four years, and that helped me a lot because I had to sing for the same audience every weekend. Yeah. And that was where I really learned how to perform.

Studs Terkel Wait, you did jazz for a while? So you became--

Renee Fleming Yeah.

Studs Terkel So you--now, jazz also allows for improvisation--

Renee Fleming Absolutely.

Studs Terkel And flexibility.

Renee Fleming Abs--when I sing bel canto roles where I have to do embellishments and cadenzas, I always look to my jazz background, and could probably improvise them if I didn't know them.

Studs Terkel Now, let's stick with that just for a minute before we hear you. By the way, she--your repertoire is a broad--it includes contemporary singers and those of recent years, such as Alban Berg, with, [speaking of?], "Lulu", and your Marie in "Wozzeck". But the matter of jazz: Do you, when you improvise--you improvise in jazz, whether it be a ballad or blues--

Renee Fleming Mhm.

Studs Terkel Can you do that in an operatic aria?

Renee Fleming Well, anything that I've done, for instance the Rossini's "Armida" that we're going to hear a little bit of, is--there's a lot of, that's not in the score on that. There are a lot of embellishments. And basically I sit down at the piano and I had--I sometimes I go to a scholar and they help me--but very often I write my own and I just sit at the piano and I toodle. I mean, I just sing as if I were doing a jazz tune and [scat singing]. It's the same thing with a tune that's in an aria that would be [operatic singing]. I can change the tune and just sort of make it up as I go until I find the best thing.

Studs Terkel This is great! See, what you've done here, no one has ever done before. At least no, as I know, on this program, no opera singer or classical singer. You drew the direct analogy there between your jazz, as you were doing some scat there--

Renee Fleming Yeah, yeah.

Studs Terkel In a Ella Fitzgerald style or [Eddie? any?] style. You were doing that and then you carried that over into--

Renee Fleming Yeah. It's the same skill, I think, just a different style of music.

Studs Terkel You know what we should do--I know, I hope Steve won't mind. We have "Armida" as the last piece. Since you've mentioned it, perhaps we could talk a little about Rossini and this approach using, hear that aria in "Armida". Now let's talk about that. We know of your Marguerite, "Faust", we know of Desdemona, so here you have Gounod, Verdi. You go from Mozart to Verdi--

Renee Fleming Yeah.

Studs Terkel We'll call this vamping till ready. [laughter] Until he's set with this, of having to--you had a time of self-doubt throughout, and then came your call, Houston, you filled in for someone, the Houston Opera.

Renee Fleming That's right. That was my big debut, that's right.

Studs Terkel When you were the Countess--

Renee Fleming Yeah.

Studs Terkel In "The Marriage of Figaro". But before that, "Armida". A word about Rossini's "Armida" and your choice of that.

Renee Fleming Well, this was a really, this was one of my--there are a few already--but this was one of my Cinderella moments. Because I--there was a cancellation at the Pesaro Festival, and I have never been known for singing bel canto repertoire but I have done a bit, and I love it, and I think it's the most virtuosic repertoire there is, and that's what really grounded my technique. But there was a cancellation and Luigi Ferrari of the Pesaro Festival was frantically looking for someone to replace--because Armida is a big, virtuosic part that Maria Callas made famous. And nobody really wants to follow in her footsteps unless you really are confident. And I decided to audition for it. He had heard about me from, I think, Marilyn Horne of--among other people--and went and auditioned for him and got the job and learned the role in two weeks. And performed it then a month later.

Studs Terkel You see now, you're talking about Rossini, and you know about bel canto, and you spoke of virtuosity; a moment ago you were talking about jazz and improvisation, so it's this kind of a role that allows for that kind of improvisation, more than, say, a dramatic role.

Renee Fleming Absolutely.

Studs Terkel Yeah.

Renee Fleming I think so, yeah, much more than a dramatic role--

Studs Terkel Yeah.

Renee Fleming Because you start with a basic tune, and, of course, Rossini, actually, in this particular part, had already written out most everything. It's not quite as embellished as some other things. But I learned it in two weeks and thought that I was going to absolutely, that people were going to boo me off the stage opening night and say, "What business do you have of doing this?" But, you know, it's one of those things you do when you're young, and you're hungry, and you're ambitious. You just take a chance. And I became very lucky. It went well.

Studs Terkel Why don't you set--we're going to hear it now. So, why don't you set the scene for that aria we'll hear?

Renee Fleming Well, this is in the middle of the opera, actually. Armida is a sorceress who has discovered that she's in love with the tenor and she actually begins to woo him to leaving his crusades and staying with her--

Studs Terkel By the way, I think we should set the scene: this is the Crusades and she, Armida, is a sorceress of [Saracen's?] group, you know. She's sorceress. It's a [unintelligible] kind of theme.

Renee Fleming Yeah--

Studs Terkel Sort of, you know. But go ahead.

Renee Fleming Yeah, yeah. And she's actually trying to win him over to the sweetness of love, actually. And there's--this is, the thing about this aria is it's a form which allows for much more intense embellishments with each ensuing verse, and much more--it's a very difficult piece with a lot of roulades, a lot of triplets, a lot of trills, and then several high Cs. [content removed, see catalog record]

Studs Terkel Boy, oh boy, you've proved your point! [laughter] You've laid a--Renee Fleming, and doing Rossini, and the takeoff, the virtuosity, taking off on a note and away--and think of a great jazz singer, a different world entirely--the same kind of taking off and scatting.

Renee Fleming Well, it fascinates me that, probably when this music was composed, artists were so used to doing that that they made up their mind, spontaneous and they improvised. I think they probably improvised their embellishments, and a few artists today still do that, but it's a very risky process.

Studs Terkel Well, see, here's you, too--not only that you are adventurous, too [to sing? this thing?] but you have the stuff to back it. We're talking about Renee Fleming, who as you probably know, is quite remarkable. And this is just the beginning, just reaching her prime. And when Martin Bernheimer of "The L.A. Times", who is a tough customer by the way, spoke of you just having the qualities of all those others, in their prime. So, there's still a chance--we'll take our break--one more shot at hearing her as Marguerite in "Faust" at the Lyric, February 19th. But more about what she has in mind and how she came to sing as she does, some of her musical adventures, after this break. So, resuming with the saga of Renee Fleming, how it was. That was the beginning, of vocal teachers, your parents, challenges. And then you had this question of: what can you do, what can't you do, and the risk of doing stuff you're not ready for.

Renee Fleming Right. Right. It's so important. And I think that really discovering who you are, it takes time. And in a sense, in retrospect, I'm so happy that I was in turmoil when I was young and nobody knew who I was, and managed just to, really, get things together and solve all of these things before I started really singing in the limelight, as it were. And now I'm so much more secure. I don't always envy people who get picked up and thrown into the spotlight in their early 20s, you know, because I realize that they still have a lot of growing to do and it can be very terrifying when you have to get that stability like that.

Studs Terkel Well, of course, in your case it was a number of things: it was trial and error, and also your teachings. There was Eastman, and then came that great voice teacher, Beverly Johnson at--

Renee Fleming Yeah. I just, I met Beverly--

Studs Terkel At Juilliard.

Renee Fleming Yeah, at Julliard, exactly. I had a fabulous education between--before Eastman I was at a state school in New York called Potsdam State University, and had a great voice teacher there named Pat Misslin. But Beverly I've been with now for about 13 years and she's been my touchstone and my rock.

Studs Terkel Now, what is it that [struck? instruct-?] you also were saying, some were saying you may have the voice, you may have had the acting ability, you may have the intell--all that you have but, does she, is she that sure of her technique?

Renee Fleming Yeah--

Studs Terkel That's one of

Renee Fleming those things [unintelligible]-- Well, it's int--I'm so glad you bring that up because that's my pet peeve. Because I really think that it, it's something that's, it's very elusive you know, because all of our musculature and everything that we do to sing is internal. And not only that, but they're involuntary muscles so there's not--it's not like you can look at a pianist and say, "your hand position is wrong." And finding Beverly was actually at the end of working with a lot of different people. I worked, as you said with Elisabeth Schwarzkopf a bit, and Arleen Augér was my teacher in Europe. I had a Fulbright grant and studied in Germany for a year. And to put everything together, it was really very technical--working with tongue position, and using your palette, and getting a secure breathing and support technique. And it's--I can't emphasize enough that until that is worked out you can't be an artist because you don't have the freedom. And now I can get onstage and say, most of the time, of course, I still have to think [unintelligible]--

Studs Terkel [unintelligible] By the way, you had master classes with Scotto and with Schwarzkopf--

Renee Fleming Yeah.

Studs Terkel Each one was a different character, I suppose, in--

Renee Fleming Yeah.

Studs Terkel Absolutely, totally. And the teaching of it.

Renee Fleming Yeah. And Renata Scotto was one of the singers who said, "Have a family," she said, because you'll be so much more secure, you won't take your singing as seriously, and you'll be a better singer for it. So she was one of the people who advised me to do that. And Schwarzkopf was a very tough teacher, actually. It was a whole week. It was very intense, very demanding.

Studs Terkel I'm thinking now of your repertoire. Now, you know, [they say?], you should take [your? her?] time before she goes to Verdi, well, here you were in, as Desdemona and, you know, you were in Mozart. We have to come to that, your singing, and everyone knows you've got it. But one day something happened at the Houston Opera House.

Renee Fleming Right--

Studs Terkel [unintelligible]

Renee Fleming That that was the debut that I made there in "The Marriage of Figaro" as the Countess. When--I had sung for their studio program and they very kindly said, "You know, we think you're beyond the studio and we'll use you on the main stage when we get a chance." And a few months later this cancellation came up, and I got to go in and that was my debut in a major house. And, in fact, I ended up singing the Countess as a debut role in many, many houses. So--

Studs Terkel You--

Renee Fleming That's my, that's been my lucky role.

Studs Terkel That was it. So you become a Mozart singer, the Countess. But then you also sang the can--now we come to the repertoire. We started--there was a Rossini, and there's a Mozart, and then you were--John Corigliano was here at the Lyric, too. [unintelligible]

Renee Fleming That's right. "Ghosts of Versailles", yeah.

Studs Terkel That was a take-off on "The Marriage of Figaro" and Beaumarchais.

Renee Fleming A bit. Yeah, I played the same character--

Studs Terkel [In? And?] the pre-revolution time.

Renee Fleming Mhm, Rosina. Yes.

Studs Terkel And you were doing the Countess then, a wholly different musical setting.

Renee Fleming Well, my feeling about repertoire is is that, if you look at the vast centuries that I sing, and styles, it seems that you would think that you'd be nervous for me and think, "Gosh, she does too much a variety of things." But my feeling is that, vocally, nothing is really very different. For me the important thing is where it lies, and, oh, if it's more florid than not, that's fine. But stylistically there's a world of difference.

Studs Terkel Yeah. But there's also something--and young, there's also sort of a musical intelligence you have because you've also done--and now we should--surprised you, you've done the Marschallin in "Rosenkavalier".

Renee Fleming I just did that for the first time, that's right.

Studs Terkel Well, that is incredible. But here's a woman of grey--

Renee Fleming Yeah.

Studs Terkel Even though her age is 30--at the time--35, 36--

Renee Fleming Yeah, mhm.

Studs Terkel Would prove about 70 today.

Renee Fleming Yeah.

Studs Terkel Of course, she gives up her young lover--

Renee Fleming Right.

Studs Terkel And she's 35, sees the first wrinkle says, "that's it."

Renee Fleming She should be young, I think, yeah--

Studs Terkel Yeah.

Renee Fleming I mean, I didn't have any trouble at all relating to her.

Studs Terkel Did you ever run into Lotte Lehmann?

Renee Fleming Well, I've listened to her many times, of course--

Studs Terkel I'm thinking, in a way you're following--this is interesting--

Renee Fleming Hm?

Studs Terkel The roles you've done--

Renee Fleming Yeah.

Studs Terkel Whether it be the Countess in that, whether it be the great role as Marschallin.

Renee Fleming Well, I think I want to stay in a Mozart-Strauss groove, absolutely. I think that--I love--it's great music for one thing, it's a pleasure to sing.

Studs Terkel Now you speak of--basically, you're a singer and, therefore, there's a scope and the breadth there. So you go from Mozart, we come to, we'll hear an aria of you doing Alban Berg.

Renee Fleming Yes,

Studs Terkel yes. Now we come to "Lulu" and "Wozzeck".

Renee Fleming Well, this is an interesting recording because I probably wouldn't sing either of these roles on the stage. But it was a thrill to work on them with James Levine and the Met orchestra and record them. And I especially love Marie's music from "Wozzeck".

Studs Terkel Well, a word about that, perhaps. Now here, what is it in Alban Berg's music? And, of course, here was the drama, too--

Renee Fleming Yeah, yeah. Well,

Studs Terkel

Renee Fleming His acting, too. Well, I--his music really speaks to me personally. I love "Wozzeck", musically, I think it's a joy to listen to. And maybe it's because I--as a child I always loved somewhat modern music. And I think that this piece with its drama--and also, remembering that I had a Fulbright grant, I studied in Germany. So that is my second language. I speak German fluently. So it's--and I don't get to sing in German very much. You know, most of what I've done is Italian and I'm doing more French now, so it's--and her predicament is so--I'm unfortunately, Marguerite no exception, I do play a lot of victims in operas. [laughter] That's how we win the sympathy of the audience. [laughter]

Studs Terkel Let [let's hear her sing?] here's Marguerite, the innocent--

Renee Fleming She's the ultimate victim, I think.

Studs Terkel The innocent in "Faust"--

Renee Fleming Yeah.

Studs Terkel And here is Marie, who is also a victim.

Renee Fleming Yeah.

Studs Terkel But worried about--why not set the scene for what we're about to hear?

Renee Fleming Well, the thing is she's actually in a situation where she doesn't know where, what's going to happen, and she's worried about her husband, and he's undergoing these tests and he's changed, and she has a child. And she's finding herself in a position where she's turning to the Bible for some help. And, of course, it makes her all the more frenzied and all the more fearful.

Studs Terkel This is the scene, then. And there's guilt, because she, in a sense, betrayed-- The

Renee Fleming

Studs Terkel Right. The hard-working, slow-thinking Wozzeck. And the--

Renee Fleming Yeah.

Studs Terkel The ultimate tragedy [involves?] and there's the baby. And here's her own guilt, and the matter of religion and everything else, and this is the aria. [content removed, see catalog record] I'm thinking of this very dramatic aria--dramatic opera, for that matter--"Wozzeck" and Marie, as well as the role, and you also recorded "Lulu", too, but--here we come to the question of drama, don't we? There's music and now here's theater, too. The character itself. That becomes part of your--how do you study that?

Renee Fleming Well, when I go to the theater I really want--to the opera theater--I want to believe in the characters on stage, and I want to be involved in the story. So it's a matter of my own taste. But my husband is an actor, and, so, he really doesn't let me get away with any sloppiness about acting, and he really kind of cracks the whip a little bit. And I love that. I love having that input, his, and I'm still working on it. I have a long, a long way to go, I think, with [unintelligible]--

Studs Terkel With--where you--well, we'll pick up on that. You said a long way to--you described yourself as a work in progress. [laughter] That's the phrase. Let's save that for after we--just to remind the audience, we take our second break--that Renee Fleming is my guest and she's Marguerite. One more shot to hear her: February 19th as Marguerite in "Faust" at the Lyric. And, of course, an experience seeing, as well as hearing, as you know from having probably seen the "Otello" on TV, or for that matter any of her other roles. We'll come to "Susannah", which you also did at the Lyric. So, resuming with Renee Fleming and we're talking about this question of--you say you're still growing and learning continuously. You call yourself a work in progress.

Renee Fleming Well, it was interesting, you brought up the "Otello" telecast and I was sitting there and I could have taken pages and pages of notes for myself. And I thought, "Gee, when I get to do that again I'm going to fix so many things." But I think everyone at the top of this profession is that way. I mean, we're all our own worst critics, or best critics depending on your attitude. And I have found there's still a lot of things I want to achieve.

Studs Terkel Yeah. Funny you say that--again we come to the question of adventurousness, musically. Mozart, Verdi, Rossini. There's Berg. And then there's Carlisle Floyd. I mean, there's the American opera, "Susannah".

Renee Fleming Well, Susannah was a great opportunity. That is a fabulous role and it's certainly one that combines both a tough singing part and a very dramatic acting part. Certainly, the most dramatic thing I've done thus far. And I was--it's also, I think, one of the most successful things I've done, being here. It was my debut here and I can't think of many things I've done that would top that whole experience.

Studs Terkel Did Sam Ramey work with you in that as Blitch?

Renee Fleming Yeah--

Studs Terkel He was Blitch, yeah.

Renee Fleming He was fantastic.

Studs Terkel But you were the--see again, the thing--we know he's been established as the young American--well, or young, one of the world's bassos. And there was Domingo in "Otello", and there's James Morris, the great Wotan, doing Iago. And here's this young singer, [laughter] he's the one they're talking about. I shouldn't quote it all, but Bernheimer, he says you, [unintelligible] you stole it. Well, the fact is they didn't expect that of Desdemona, when you do the "Ave Maria" the way you did toward the end. And so, these various other aspects--so we go back to earlier operas, not too early, the mass that is "Herodiade". That's another one you've tackled. Salome.

Renee Fleming This was last year in San Francisco, and it was a live recording of this opera called "Herodiade". But, really, the tough roles in it are mine and the role that [Juan Ponce?] sang, the Herode. But Placido Domingo sang John the Baptist. And it's really a beautiful love story of, kind of, between John the Baptist and Salome which was rather risqué at the time. And Placido does a wonderful job as well. But it was, it's exciting to be on the cover with him, and just to appear with him and Sam Ramey, and all these other fabulous singers.

Studs Terkel When you say it was just a sweet love song, it was racy at its time. You know, when Mary Garden did "Salome" here, they closed the joint.

Renee Fleming [laughter] Oh!

Studs Terkel You know, I think it's--didn't they, Danny? Danny Newman's in there. I'm pretty sure they closed the joint down--

Renee Fleming Wow!

Studs Terkel [unintelligible] Oh, my god! Mary Garden was very adventurous, musically--

Renee Fleming Yes.

Studs Terkel And in life itself. And so, here it's funny, what was once very daring is now accepted.

Renee Fleming Right. Right.

Studs Terkel Yeah.

Renee Fleming Quaint, exactly. Yeah, it's a whole different standard.

Studs Terkel Why don't you describe--set the scene we're about to hear. This is a CD, by the way--

Renee Fleming Well, this is kind of an interesting situation in that the--Salome's most famous opera, which is "Il est doux, il est bon", is the first thing that the character sings. It's like Rusalka--which is my favorite role, I think, of all--the "Song to the Moon" is the first thing that she sings, so kind of--

Studs Terkel Pardon me, time out. We'll come back that. You said--you mentioned "Rusalka".

Renee Fleming Yeah.

Studs Terkel So Dvorák's "Rusalka". And that song, that very familiar--

Renee Fleming Right, right.

Studs Terkel You were told--some guy, a teacher gave you advice to hit that, because she thought you were on the wrong track.

Renee Fleming Well, this was one of the things that, when I mentioned to you that I was singing the wrong repertoire, I had learned "Song to the Moon" as a student and never presented it in auditions because I thought, "Oh, it's too easy, no one will be impressed." So this was my strange thinking at the time and Merle Hubbard said, "Well, you know, why don't you pick up that aria, and I

Studs Terkel said-- He's the guy, your agent now.

Renee Fleming Yeah, he was, yeah. And I said, "Well, I know that." And that was the aria that started getting me, not only work, but winning competitions and everything. And I have a Czech--my grandmother's Czech, and I think there's something cultural, too. Yeah. And in the sound. But I, no, I absolutely, that's my favorite role, I think. But this, the "Herodiade"--

Studs Terkel Yeah, now we come to that.

Renee Fleming Is interesting in that this aria is in the very beginning of the opera, and she's describing the fact that she's seen him speak, and how wonderful he is, and how people come and he has such an incredible effect on everybody. And how kind. She's had a very rough life.

Studs Terkel Oh, she did?

Renee Fleming Yeah.

Studs Terkel Salome?

Renee Fleming Yeah--

Studs Terkel But she's a tough kid--

Renee Fleming She's had a rough life--

Studs Terkel But she survived--

Renee Fleming She doesn't know who she is.

Studs Terkel No, she doesn't know--but here's her love song--

Renee Fleming Right--

Studs Terkel To John the Baptist.

Renee Fleming John the Baptist, that's right. [content removed, see catalog record]

Studs Terkel Salome had a rough time, but she came through right there. [laughter] Salome did. "Herodiade" [unintelligible] because it's Renee Fleming. And I was thinking of something, I was thinking of another voice--and it's directly related--that somehow when I think of you, I think of Marilyn Horne. And as though there's a young Marilyn Horne here, right--no, not in the wings--she's on stage right now. We have to take our last break with Renee Fleming. She's in town, on this program, for that reason, ending the run. You have one chance to hear her and her colleagues at, in "Faust", as Marguerite. February 19th is the last shot. You remember her as Susannah here at the Lyric, and she'll return in others, I'm sure, after scoring elsewhere. And these are some of her CDs we're playing, and voices--you point out the different languages here. And the last one will be English, coming up. And that involves a thought about Marilyn Horne, too. After this break. And, so, for the last lap, I was thinking that there's a CD called "Tribute to Marilyn Horne", a number of singers and, of course, you're featured there. You and she--there's been a connection here, hasn't there?

Renee Fleming We met during "The Ghosts of Versailles" and I went up and asked her advice about a couple of roles, and the thing I love about her is she's very honest and very direct and she's been so helpful to me in the last couple of years. I've mad--I've been able to call her anytime I've been in a bind or had a career decision, and she's given me such tremendous guidance. I really feel honored to know her.

Studs Terkel And, so, here's this tribute to Marilyn Horne [unintelligible] There are three or four, three songs that Renee Fleming sings during that concert, that recording. And one is a song that, based on a letter--those of whom, many people have seen the Civil War show of Ken Burns that ran on public television--all moved by the letter of a young soldier--

Renee Fleming Yeah.

Studs Terkel Before he is killed in battle.

Renee Fleming Sullivan Ballou. And John Kander set the letter to music and it's such a direct-- We haven't

Studs Terkel That's one. time to hear this

Renee Fleming

Studs Terkel That's one. Beautiful. We haven't time to hear this now. It's beautiful as you sing it, and another one is the Strauss "Standchen". But one we'll hear is by Benjamin Britten, and the words are the words of Auden the poet. And, so, now we come to Britten--we haven't talked about recitals, have we?

Renee Fleming Yeah.

Studs Terkel The challenge of recitals.

Renee Fleming Well, that's quite--that's an interesting subject because I'm doing a lot more recitals in the future. And I think my happiest artistic life is one that's balanced between opera recitals and orchestral work. So we're getting much better at that.

Studs Terkel And, so, the recital, of course, is its own challenge, as your colleague in "Faust", Dmitri Hvorostovsky was saying, "you must possess the stage!"

Renee Fleming Yes. As he does very well.

Studs Terkel So that's part of it. And this by way of, that we'll, well, just--do want to set the scene for the, for the Britten song?

Renee Fleming Well, this is the first song in this cycle and I actually think it was the first number on the whole program of that night. And that was such a fascinating tribute to Marilyn Horne. It's such an exciting thing to have all those ladies singing and talking and having a good time.

Studs Terkel And it's the poem of Auden, "Let the florid music praise, / The flute and the trumpet / Beauty's conquest of your face". A very beautiful lyric, a beautiful poem with all the difficulties that are involved with the appearance of beauty and reality itself. Here, then, is Renee Fleming and Benjamin Britten. And this is by way of thanking you very much, and we'll look forward to seeing you and hearing you.

Renee Fleming Thank you. It's been great.

Studs Terkel It's adieu [finito?] [laughter] Thank