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Arts and Entertainment Thursday, Aug. 13, 2015 4 years ago

Renée Fleming to perform at the Van Wezel on January 27

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The acclaimed soprano will make her Sarasota debut with Anu Tali and the Sarasota Orchestra
by: Nick Reichert Arts & Entertainment Editor

Renée Fleming, America’s reigning soprano, will make her Sarasota debut with conductor Anu Tali and the Sarasota Orchestra at the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall at 8 p.m. on January 27. Tickets go on sale Sept. 12.

"The Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall has had a great history of bringing in iconic artists," says Joseph McKenna, president and CEO of the Sarasota Orchestra. "This is the first time that the orchestra and the Van Wezel have collaborated with an artist of such international standing like Renée Fleming." 

The multi-award winning lyrical soprano is one of the few classical opera singers to earn crossover appeal and household name recognition. A vocal juggernaut and chameleon, Fleming has performed and recorded an eclectic range of music including opera, bel canto, musical theater, jazz and even indie rock. A four-time Grammy Award winner, Fleming has also received the National Medal of Arts, the highest honor this country can bestow on an individual artist or organization, in 2013. And perhaps cementing her role as the people’s soprano, Fleming became the first opera singer to perform the National Anthem during Super Bowl XLVIII in February 2014 to an estimated audience of 112.2 million viewers.

McKenna, Mary Bensel (executive director of the Van Wezel) and Monica Van Buskirk (president and CEO of the Van Wezel Foundation) have led their three respective organizations in collaboration to produce this highly anticipated night of music. In addition to the concert, the trio says there will be pre- and post-concert events to celebrate the evening and the Sarasota arts.

Fleming and Anu Tali and the Sarasota Orchestra will perform a diverse set of music including opera arias, Broadway musical standards, and more adventurous programming.

Before the concert the orchestra will host their annual gala event featuring live music and dinner at the Sarasota Orchestra. Then after the concert, the Van Wezel Foundation will host an artist meet-and-greet and celebration with Fleming inside the hall's grand foyer with food and drinks.

"As an arts community, we're thrilled to have this collaborative effort," says Van Buskirk. "We wanted to send a clear message to the Sarasota community that we're working together."

The concert program is still being deliberated on by Fleming and Anu Tali and the orchestra but McKenna says that Fleming has displayed interest in performing opera arias, Broadway standards and even more adventurous material. McKenna, Bensel and Van Buskirk also hope that Fleming and the Sarasota Orchestra perform some of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's work. The night of the concert will be the Austrian classical music master's 260th birthday. 

"When we reached out to Renée's people, the first response was that she is enthusiastic on supporting and performing with women conductors," says Bensel. "We sent her Anu's bio and she was thrilled to perform with Anu and the Sarasota Orchestra."

In recent years Fleming had the honor of performing at the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize ceremony, the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, and on the balcony of Buckingham Palace during the Diamond Jubilee Concert for Queen Elizabeth II in 2012. And in 2008, she made opera history as the first woman in the 125-year history of the Metropolitan Opera to solo headline an opening night gala.

This past year Fleming made her Broadway debut as an irascible opera diva in Joe DiPietro’s comedy “Living on Love.” In addition, she performed opposite baritone Nathan Gunn in Franz Lehár’s “The Merry Widow” at the Metropolitan Opera. She currently serves on the board of trustees of the Carnegie Hall Corporation, Sing for Hope, Asia Society, the artistic advisory board of the Polyphony Foundation and was named the first creative consultant at the Lyric Opera of Chicago where she serves on the board and as a vice president.

Nick Reichert writes about Sarasota fine arts, including theater, dance, opera, music and visual art. He graduated from Wake Forest University in 2013. Follow @TheNickReichert on Twitter for regular updates.

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