RenÈe Fleming Named By Lyric Opera Of Chicago First Ever Creative Consultant

Simultaneously, she and
Sir Andrew Davis, Lyric’s music director, have been elected to the Board of
Directors as Vice-Presidents. Ms. Fleming’s appointment as Creative
Consultant is effective immediately, for a term of five years.

The RenÈe Fleming Initiative is being sponsored by an Anonymous Donor, Mr.
and Mrs. John V. Crowe, The Crown Family, Mr. and Mrs. J. Thomas Hurvis,
Richard P. and Susan Kiphart, John D. and Alexandra C. Nichols, the Patrick G.
and Shirley W. Ryan Enterprises Group, and Mr. and Mrs. William C. Vance
— all of whom are prominent members of the Lyric Opera of Chicago Board
of Directors.

As Creative Consultant of Lyric Opera of Chicago, Ms. Fleming will play an
active leadership role in creating new projects and initiatives designed to
increase opera audiences and awareness of the art form, while sharing in the
company’s artistic vision.

Her plans, in collaboration with her Lyric colleagues, include:

  • Curating a world-premiere opera to debut in the 2015-16 season.
  • Collaborating with other Chicago-based arts institutions to send a
    special message about the strength of culture in Chicago.
  • Fostering an annual commitment to American music theater, starting with a
    new production of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Oklahoma in the
    spring of 2013.
  • Further developing Lyric’s young-professionals initiative, which
    takes opera into the workplace and provides entry-level experiences for the
    curious adult.
  • Expanding the education activities of Lyric to include a joint program
    with the Merit School of Music devoted to finding and nurturing young,
    talented singers in the Chicago area, and to making Lyric more accessible
    to the children and young adults involved in all areas of music education
    at Merit.
  • Presenting non-operatic and off-season performances at the Civic Opera
  • Continuing her on-stage presence at Lyric, including a Subscriber
    Appreciation Concert with Dmitri Hvorostovsky honoring General Director
    William Mason on January 7, 2012; staged concert performances of AndrÈ
    Previn’s A Streetcar Named Desire with Ms. Fleming in the
    role created for her, Blanche DuBois, in spring 2013; a production of
    Capriccio for fall 2014, in which Ms. Fleming will sing the Countess (both
    A Streetcar Named Desire and Capriccio will be part of
    Lyric’s subscription season); and participation in Lyric’s 60th
    Anniversary Gala on November 1, 2014.
  • Establishing a prominent presence in a variety of web-based marketing
    projects, as well as in print and broadcast media. Ms. Fleming and Sir
    Andrew Davis are already in preparation for an audio/video series that will
    introduce audiences to the new 2011-12 season.

Of this new adventure in her professional life, RenÈe Fleming said,
“Lyric is a vibrant home to so many talented and dedicated colleagues. I
am eager to join forces with them as we work to keep opera relevant and
meaningful in people’s lives today. Dick Kiphart, Bill Mason, Sir Andrew
Davis, and the Lyric Board have my deepest gratitude for this extraordinary
privilege.” (Attached below is a document in which Ms. Fleming explains
her thoughts and initiatives, “IN HER OWN WORDS.”)

Board President Richard P. Kiphart said, “For any business to
flourish, new ideas are essential. RenÈe’s creativity and flair will be
fantastic for Lyric Opera and will add to what is already a very successful
organization. She is a highly knowledgeable opera professional who has a broad
view of what a major opera house can mean to a community. She is also dedicated
to bringing new audiences to our art form and to furthering the reach of opera
through educational initiatives. I am also delighted that she will be joining
Sir Andrew Davis as an international presence for our organization.”

Sir Andrew Davis commented, “RenÈe and I have been friends and
colleagues for many years and collaborating with her has always been for me an
enormous pleasure. First and foremost, she is a marvelously natural and
instinctive musician; in both musical and dramatic matters she is thoughtful,
sensitive and committed. She is a great star and yet always works with her
fellow artists in a spirit of mutual respect and an infectious delight in the
common pursuit of the highest artistic standards. The passion she brings to her
performances is echoed in everything she does, which is why I think she is such
an inspirational addition to our team. I look forward to working with her for
many years to come.”

General Director William Mason added, “I have been involved with Lyric
Opera for virtually my entire professional career, so it is particularly
important to me that there be a strong team to carry on when I retire. That is
why I am so delighted that RenÈe will be joining the terrific artistic and
management forces we now have in place, and that she will be working with the
new general director when she or he is hired. RenÈe comes with new and
interesting ideas and will be an important collaborator as the company moves
forward. She is fervently committed to ensuring the future of opera, and
needless to say has keen insights into what makes great singers. All of these
attributes make her an exciting and invaluable addition to the Lyric Opera

# # #


When approached by Dick Kiphart and Lyric Opera of Chicago with the
opportunity to contribute in an administrative capacity, I was speechless; rare
for a singer. The thought of working on the other side of the lights
hadn’t occurred to me, and I began to ponder exactly how I could best aid
one of the world’s greatest opera houses while continuing to meet my
performance obligations. I discovered that my passion for this art form and my
desire to contribute run equally high, and I am deeply grateful to Dick, the
Lyric Board, Bill Mason, and Sir Andrew for this opportunity.

We singers have a unique perspective. Over time, we observe and experience
not only how different companies operate, program, and present, but also how
different audiences perceive various productions and opera in general. Lyric is
special to me and to so many artists for offering a wonderful
“home” where we love to perform. It that is also renowned for
top-drawer management and the highest artistic standards championed by Bill
Mason and Sir Andrew Davis. Add to that an open-minded, theater-loving
audience, and Lyric has it all.

Further, in the current difficult economic climate, Bill, his senior
administrative team, and the extraordinary Lyric Board have been meticulous
when it comes to fiscal prudence, and they have managed this without
sacrificing artistic quality. This, combined with aggressive marketing and
fundraising, has kept the company in excellent financial shape, which is one of
the many reasons why I am excited to be joining forces with Lyric. So, the ship
is airtight, the economic storm is subsiding, and it’s time to take those
brave steps forward and tackle the challenges facing opera today.

Drawing on my experience and on my respect and love for Lyric, I am hoping
to develop the following initiatives and programs in concert with my new Lyric
colleagues. These plans, while ambitious, are the product of much reflection on
how I feel I might best contribute to one of the world’s most respected
cultural institutions.

World Premiere

New works are the lifeblood of this genre we so love. Lyric Opera is
generously allowing me to curate a world-premiere opera to be performed in the
2015-16 season. Sir Andrew, Bill, and I are already looking at potential
properties and composers.

Chicago Stands for Culture

Reflecting on my years of travel, one thing is clear to me: Chicago is a
cultural mecca. Loving theater and art as I do, and having Lyric and the
Chicago Symphony together in one friendly, lakeside, thriving city, presents a
unique opportunity for destination-style festivals. In terms of revenue,
marketing, and PR sharing, the whole is decidedly more than its parts. My
colleagues and I would like to collaborate with other Chicago-based
institutions such as the Chicago Symphony, Art Institute, Goodman Theatre, and
Harris Theater to exploit this unique cultural landscape far and wide in
support of both the arts and the city of Chicago.

The American Musical at the Civic Opera House

I believe it may be time to reexamine the role of an opera house in American
communities in the 21st century. In addition to creating new works and
providing quality programming in the operatic lexicon we know and love, we can
also broaden the offerings to include more from our own musical heritage.

After 100 years in this country, the American musical has achieved
“classic” status, and opera companies with extraordinary artistic
resources are uniquely positioned to present productions at the highest level
as part of the standard repertory. We needn’t wait for Broadway touring
companies to present works that are tailor-made for the Chicago community, and
that highlight the strengths of Lyric. Lyric has been investigating
possibilities in this area for some time, and we would like to foster an annual
series. In this regard, I am pleased to announce that Lyric will be presenting
Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Oklahoma in the spring of 2013.

Outreach and Community Engagement

As classical music has become more rarified in the past century, and popular
music has taken over mass culture, outreach has become even more important. In
a modern world where at least two generations of limited education in the arts
has diminished the assumed contextual knowledge that has always been key for
building opera appreciation and attendance, we should be casting as wide a net
as possible. Lyric is already reaching out to students and adults through a
wide variety of programs annually, and I am looking forward to helping my
colleagues do even more in this regard.

I am particularly interested in developing programs that help newcomers test
the opera waters, ideally with a community of like-minded explorers. We should
reward their curiosity with user-friendly, non-patronizing resources that not
only provide information about the works and productions, but give historical
context as well. Sir Andrew and I are already working on a series of videos
that will appear on Lyric’s website and will introduce potential
audiences to Lyric’s new 2011-12 season.


As I continue performing around the world, we have added several exclusive
projects to my performance calendar, specifically for the Lyric audience. These
include a staged concert production of AndrÈ Previn’s A Streetcar
Named Desire
, in which I sing the dramatically challenging role of Blanche
DuBois that was created for me. On January 7, 2012, there will be a Subscriber
Appreciation Concert to honor Bill Mason, whose 50-year involvement at Lyric
and tenure as General Director culminates at the end of the 2011-12 season. I
am grateful to be sharing this concert of favorite duets and arias with my
friend, the extraordinary Dmitri Hvorostovsky. Sir Andrew will of course be on
the podium. Further, in the 2014-2015 season, Lyric is mounting a production of
Richard Strauss’s Capriccio with Sir Andrew conducting so that I
can share one of my favorite roles, the Countess, with the Lyric audience. And,
I’ll be participating in the company’s 60th Anniversary Gala on
November 1, 2014, along with many of my esteemed colleagues.

Education Expansion & Finding Future Stars

Lyric has a richly diverse educational program in place serving both schools
and communities. Helping to build on current programs will bring me special
joy, given my background in music education and my dedication to education as
the key to culture. In addition, I am hoping to develop a program with the
Merit School of Music that will find and nurture new talent in the Chicago
area, in addition to making Lyric more accessible to children and young people
who clearly already have an interest in music. Ultimately, great acting singers
are at the heart of opera, and we need to seek and develop more notable talents
for which international stages are clamoring. I believe that there are amazing
young voices right here in Chicago, and Lyric is poised to develop and
potentially guide them right into the Ryan Opera Center.

Expanding the Role of the Civic Theater

Lyric’s Civic Opera House is an architectural treasure; one of the
most beautiful theaters in the world. The company is also in the advantageous
position of owning the theater, which opens up the possibility of non-operatic
programming. This type of presenting is occurring in many major theaters today
as a way to increase revenue and bring in audiences who might not otherwise be
familiar with the theater or the opera, and who might as a result be less
intimidated about expanding their musical horizons; Kristin Chenoweth, Barbara
Cook, and Sting have performed at the Metropolitan Opera, and similar upcoming
series are planned at the Royal Opera in London.

image_description=RenÈe Fleming [Photo by Dan Rest/Lyric Opera of Chicago]
product_title=RenÈe Fleming Named By Lyric Opera Of Chicago First Ever Creative Consultant
product_by=Press release by Lyric Opera of Chicago
product_id=Above: RenÈe Fleming [Photo by Dan Rest/Lyric Opera of Chicago]