Renee Fleming on Life as a Cross-Over Opera Diva

Famed opera singer Renee Fleming joined me on my most recent podcast of The Dinner Party on WGN Radio's WGN Plus. In a funny, natural and easy-going interview, Renee talks about fitting her enormous gowns on a plane, her love of Jazz, being an ambassador for music, and her upcoming performances in the Lyric Opera's A Merry Widow. Over some incredible Thanksgiving dishes like Turkey Schnitzel with Brussels Sprouts in a Mustard Lime Butter and Roasted Cauliflower with Romesco Sauce from Chef Tim Graham of the Langham Hotel's Travelle Restaurant, Renee and I dish on life as a cross-over opera diva.

I hope you enjoy this warm-hearted podcast with opera great, Renee Fleming. For more information on Renee's incredible career, underneath the podcast is a small sampling of just some of Renee's outstanding accomplishments.

Renee Fleming is an American opera singer and soprano whose repertoire encompasses Strauss, Mozart, Handel, Verdi, Puccini, Dvorak, Wagner, Bellini, French opera, jazz and indie rock. Fleming has a full lyric soprano voice, meaning a type of operatic soprano voice with a warm quality and a bright, full timbre that can be heard over an orchestra. She has performed in Italian, German, French, Czech, and Russian, aside from her native English. She also speaks fluent German and French, along with some Italian. Her signature roles include Countess Almaviva in Mozart's Le nozze di Figaro, Desdemona in Verdi's Otello, Violetta in Verdi's La Traviata to name just a few.

A National Medal of Arts and Richard Tucker Award winner, she regularly performs in opera houses and concert halls worldwide. In 2008 Flemming was awarded the Swedish Polar Music Prize for her services in music. She serves as Creative Consultant for the Lyric Opera of Chicago. Conductor Sir Georg Solti said of Fleming, "In my long life, I have met maybe two sopranos with this quality of singing; the other was Renata Tebaldi." Quite a compliment!

While most noted for her outstanding operatic voice and performances, Fleming has done many cross-over appearances and recordings, making her an ambassador for both opera music and music as a whole. She has over 50 CDs to her credit.

As an artist and performer, I can't think of any higher honor than winning the National Medal of Arts, performing at the White House and performing at the the Superbowl. Learning and performing over 50 operas, winning a Grammy, and performing for Queen Elizabeth II isn't too shabby either. But you really know you have made it when you appear on Sesame Street.

Fleming appeared on Sesame Street singing a lively rendition of "Caro Nome" from Rigoletto, replacing the traditional Italian text with lyrics intended to aid children learning to count. She has also performed several times on Garrison Keillor's public radio program A Prairie Home Companion.

Fleming sang as a "Special Guest Vocalist" on Joe Jackson's 1994 album Night Music and in 2002 Fleming provided the vocals for Howard Shore's soundtrack for The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King . In 2009, she performed at President Obama's inaugural celebration singing the Rodgers and Hammerstein classic, "You'll Never Walk Alone," with the combined choirs of the United States Naval Academy.

In 2011, Fleming appeared in Grand Finale concert of the YouTube Symphony Orchestra with the Sydney Children's Choir, performing Mozart's "Caro Bell'Idol Mio". In less than one week, the concert had 33 million online views. Showing off her good sense of humor, like she does in the podcast above, for the fun of it, in 2013, Fleming sang the "Top 10 List" on CBS's Late Show with David Letterman.