Renee Fleming: from MetLife Stadium to Met Opera in one week

by Julie Amacher
February 7, 2014

Listen Renee Fleming talks about singing at the Super Bowl
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Renee Fleming in the title role of Dvořak's 'Rusalka'. (Ken Howard/Metropolitan Opera)

Soprano Renee Fleming is singing the lead in the Metropolitan Opera's production of Rusalka by Antonin Dvořák on Saturday, Feb. 8, (with HD broadcasts in theatres through Wed Feb 12). Even folks who haven't seen the opera itself have likely heard her sing its most famous aria, "O Lovely Moon."

We've seen Fleming on opera stages and in concert halls, movie screens and magazine covers — and she always looks perfectly at ease. So what could possibly give such a seasoned performer the cold sweats? Singing the national anthem on live television at the Super Bowl.

"I basically woke up in the middle of the night, every night for a month," Fleming says. "And I don't typically have that problem. I was pretty worried about this. That was a lot of pressure. More pressure than I have ever had, in terms of: 'This is two minutes, and that's all you have to reach this extraordinary audience.' I mean, I've had other kinds of pressure, because my core audience is also very demanding and the yardstick is high in classical music, but this was very special."

Fleming can now check "Super Bowl" off her life list. Her performance of the national anthem at the big game resulted in an explosion of internet commentary — even from people who don't know much about classical music.

"A lot of people have sort of come out of the woodwork since then," Fleming says, "and many of them have said, 'I didn't even know what opera was, I didn't know who you were.' So yeah, of course, the responsibility to not only represent not only the national anthem in terms of how strongly people feel about it as a work, but also to represent classical music and a classical style of singing, I really felt that."

You can hear Renee Fleming singing in Rusalka on the Met Opera's broadcast on Classical MPR on Saturday, Feb. 8, at noon.