Monday, October 06, 2008

I am happily a tourist

[Dr.B. I'm trying my hand at translation from German without Babelfish. This is an interview with Renée Fleming from the Baden-Baden Festspielhaus magazine.]

The charismatic US singer Renée Fleming sings in January under Christian Thielemann the Marschallin in Rosenkavalier.

BB. You have had great success with Thielemann and the Marschallin. That was in London almost 9 years ago. How did this work out for you?

RF. That was a huge success. It is such a shame this production has not been revived. But we will now make a beautiful performance here in Baden-Baden.

BB. Does that mean no more stress if one knows an opera performance will be so fantastic?

RF. That's like every CD. One knows that here is something that will last and that it must be very good. But today everything is fantastic. Almost all of my concerts are on YouTube the next day. This is bad, that one can't try something out any more.

BB. At the very least one sees you more frequently...

RF. This is seldom not the case, naturally for my appearances there are no borders. A year ago I was in Asia. This year I'm traveling to Jordan, after Russia, after Dubai and after Oberammergau. I sing all over the world. I am very gladly a tourist. But in the US I am at home. And as mother of two daughters it is often difficult if one travels a lot.

BB. How old are your daughters?

RF. Twelve and fifteen.

BB. How do you manage your career and the children? Do you set boundaries on how much you perform?

RF. The balance is very hard to find. I try to be at home a lot. However, I lead a completely different life from my colleagues. Many need two months vacation. I have already taken concert tours where I perform every second day. But this was too much for me, too. Today I would not do that any more.

BB. Doesn't one often feel very lonely on such trips?

RF. Unfortunately, I have no life partner. One already feels very isolated. Sometimes it's very difficult, but this is how it is for many working women who are alone and have children. But I am also happy--one can't have everything. And what I have is so wonderful.

BB. How does an American woman experience Europe?

RF. I am at home at the Met, but I love Vienna. It makes me nervous to sing Strauss in German speaking countries. German is not my mother tongue. My first and only Wagner at Bayreuth was very bad for me. Not enough time spent with the foreign language, so one asks oneself if an American could ever be accepted in these roles.

BB. Did you also feel something like fear before Capriccio in Vienna and now before Rosenkavalier?

RF. At the beginning of my career I had a wonderful teacher. If I had serious stage fright, she stayed with me and sent me out on the stage. Now this is gradually better because in the time between I am assured that I'll accomplish it. And if the fear comes, I say to myself--in your life you have already had lots of fear--now do your work and go home.

BB. Your German is outstanding....

RF. As a student I came to Frankfurt. That was very hard. I learned German at the Goethe Institute and at the university. My colleagues there thought that if I didn't make it as a singer I could always teach German. I started very late. However, German is my favorite language. It's so expressive, has so many colors.

BB. Do you think about what will happen when you don't sing any more?

RF. Naturally. However, I hope I will still have a lot of time. I will gladly share my knowledge of singing. However, maybe I will just sit in the garden. (laughs) As it says in Rosenkavalier "Die Zeit ist ein sonderbar Ding." Time is a strange thing. That is my favorite place. This end of the first act always gets to me. The last time I sang it was 8 years ago. Now I will find it completely different.

BB. What do you feel now?

RF. Let me explain: I had lunch with Christa Ludwig in Vienna. And Ludwig explained to me "The most important thing the Marschallin says is, one must everything with light hands grasp and let go." (mit leichten Haenden nehmen und lassen.) One must also do this in life. I almost cried. And that is the wonder of our profession.

[Dr. B. I shouted yes! at the end. When I was working, I had written on my white board "Halten und nehmen, halten und lassen." Do everything with a light heart and a light hand. Take love when it comes, and let it go when it leaves. For me the Marschallin is the greatest operatic character ever created because she speaks these words.]

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