Speculation is rife that “the people’s Diva” Renée Fleming will be retiring from the opera stage following her performances as the Marschallin in Strauss’s Der Rosenkavalier at the Metropolitan Opera in New York this season.
“This ‘Rosenkavalier’ may well be her farewell to staged opera,” the New York Times reported cryptically in a feature titled (less cryptically) The Diva Departs: Renée Fleming’s Farewell to Opera published April 5. “She will sing her final performance on the afternoon of Saturday, May 13.” The article described the soprano as “changing her focus,” with plans to give concerts, record, explore new repertoire and focus on the Lyric Opera of Chicago, where she has been a creative consultant since 2010.
The same day as the New York Times piece was published, a story in Vanity Fair downplayed any talk of retirement. “The rumour has taken on a life of its own,” Fleming said. Rather, the article explains, Fleming will “continue to sing full-time” but will be moving away from stage roles to concentrate on concerts and explore new works and projects. Neither article makes it clear whether or not Der Rosenkavalier will actually be the soprano’s last outing on the operatic stage, but both indicate a pivot towards other projects.
Fleming herself has been open for a number of years that she has been preparing to step down from stage productions in 2017. When Limelight interviewed her in 2014 she seemed to suggest this year would be significant. “I have another three years of various productions, so I’m not stopping just yet,” she said. “Let’s not put the cart before the horse, but I’m thinking down the road.”
When interviewed by Limelight in New York the following year ahead of her performances in Australia, she similarly suggested 2017 as the likely date to wind up her stage performances. “I’m not retiring,” she said then. “That’s not the right way to put it. I’m going to probably step away from opera in a couple of years – but never say never.”
So while “the people’s Diva” may be changing direction, she’s been careful not to close the stage door completely. As the 58-year old soprano herself put it: “never say never.”