RenÈe Fleming: The last diva

fleming.pngWith her latest collection of rare arias, the flamboyant soprano RenÈe Fleming conjures up a golden era of magic, muses and operatic excess. Edward Seckerson salutes a woman for whom style is everything
[Independent, 27 November 2006]
The photograph is by Snowdon, the pose statuesque, the image one that Gustav Klimt might have dreamt up. And even if the words “Homage – The Age of the Diva” were not emblazoned across the artwork we’d still know exactly where RenÈe Fleming’s new album was coming from – namely the turn of the last century. Now there was a time when the goddesses of opera and song really ruled. They dictated fashion, they dictated style, but most importantly they dictated the repertoire. Roles were created with their personalities and temperaments in mind. And on- and offstage their image was contrived to reflect their status – imperious, untouchable. The soprano Emmy Destinn was once photographed with a lion draped over her Steinway Grand; Mary Garden opted for a tiger when promoting her perfume. Product endorsement is nothing new.