Today is special for those of us who loathe pop music and cringingly compare most renderings of the Star-Spangled Banner to a battle royale of alley cats. Ninety-nine percent of the time, the Star-Spangled Banner is a caterwauling nightmare of teeth-grinding proportions (why couldn't we have a sensible call to arms for a national anthem, like the French do?). But my hopes are high for today's performance: Renée Fleming, goddess of song, has national anthem-singing duties for Super Bowl XLVIII.
That's right - an opera star. A big one. As an opera fan, I'm delighted by this. It's an odd pairing - football and opera, but to me it makes perfect sense. Both disciplines require huge technical skill, natural talent, and grueling persistence. I bet you can draw more parallels between an opera singer and a football player than you can a pop singer and a football player.
You know the soundtrack to The Return of the King? You know how badass it is? Well, I just learned that we have Ms. Fleming's voice to thank for those great big epic soaring soundscapes (in Sindarin, Tolkien's mostly functional high elven language)!
She's performed the national anthem at sporting events before, and has made guest appearances on network TV shows like Letterman. This is not her first rodeo. It's simply exciting because it's a first for opera.
Ms. Fleming is a very classy lady who frequently hosts the Metropolitan Opera's Live In HD simulcasts (where a Met opera is streamed live to thousands of movie theaters around the world). She's articulate, engaging, beautiful, and exudes a warm wit. She's fluent in French and German, and is proficient in Italian (the three main singing languages of the opera world).
She made her big stage debut at Houston Grand Opera and performs on the biggest stages around the world. Most singers develop a niche or a rep of signature roles throughout their careers - one of Ms. Fleming's signature roles is the eponymous Rusalka by Dvorak. As a Houston resident and faithful attendee of Houston Grand Opera, I eagerly hope to hear her on the HGO stage someday, either in that role or another.
To Ms. Fleming this evening, toi toi toi!