Pieces Of Me Soprano Renée Fleming

Renee Fleming

© Decca/Andrew Eccles

American soprano Renée Fleming is one of the world’s biggest opera stars, renowned for her creamy, flawless voice. She’s also known for her refreshingly un-divaish attitude and eclectic musical tastes – besides opera and song she performs everything from jazz to rock. Recently she was awarded the National Medal of the Arts by Barack Obama for her contribution to American music, and she has a new album, Guilty Pleasures, out in September. She talks about five pieces of music that are close to her heart.

Dvořák - Rusalka: ‘Song to the Moon’

‘Song to the Moon’ has been my signature piece for a long time. It launched my career. It’s in Czech - the fact that my grandparents originally come from Prague ties me to it further.

Richard Strauss - Trio from Der Rosenkavalier

Strauss has always been my desert-island composer, his music is integral to my life. I can remember the precise time that I first heard this piece as a student - every note, what the room looked like, every detail of the moment: that’s how strong an effect it had on me.

Joni Mitchell - The Magdalene Laundries

I’m a great fan of Joni Mitchell, and ‘The Magdalene Laundries’ is an interesting piece, about the institutions where unmarried mothers, poor and ‘fallen’ women would be sent into forced labour. Emmylou Harris does a beautiful cover version of this.

George Crumb - Ancient Voices of Children

I love new music – it really captures my imagination, particularly George Crumb’s Ancient Voices of Children. The text is a fragment of a poem by the Spanish writer Federico García Lorca. The music calls for wonderful effects from the solo soprano. Another one of my obsessions is Anne Truelove’s aria from Stravinsky’s The Rake’s Progress.

Hugo Wolf - ‘Sterb’ich, so hüllt in Blumen meine Glieder’

I get obsessive about pieces of music. Right now it’s the wonderful German baritone Christian Gerhaher (with whom I've recently been performing) singing  ‘Sterb’ ich, so hüllt in Blumen meine Glieder’, from Wolf’s Italianische Liederbuch. There’s a mystical quality to Wolf’s music. For me personally that late-Romantic period from Wolf to Korngold is the music I sing the most, and that suits me best.