"I'm no Plšcido Domingo," Ren_e Fleming said modestly, comparing the 51 roles in her repertoire to Domingo's 125. She and the tenor were in the midst of a backstage chat shown live to audiences worldwide as part of the Met's first Live in High Definition transmission of the season. But though Fleming has not yet racked up the lengthy rep list of her legendary colleague, she seems to be taking a page out of the multitasking tenor-conductor-impresario's book. She's starring in two Verdi operas at the Met this season and acting as special guest interviewer and host of five of the company's live HD transmissions.
Fleming returns to the stage as Desdemona on February 11, on the heels of her run in La Traviata. She first sang the role at the Met in 1994 with (who else?) Domingo as her costar, but has only performed it here in one season since that first outing.
"Part of the problem is that there aren't that many Otellos!" Fleming says. "A lot of people can sing Desdemona, but who's going to sing Otello?" This season that task falls to tenor Johan Botha, a gifted partner, as proven by his Met appearances in the title role of Don Carlo last season.
Fleming's next Live in HD gig will be February 16, when she serves as interviewer for Manon Lescaut. "What I love about these HD transmissions is outreach, with a capital O," the diva declares. "Expanding the audience for opera is incredibly exciting to me."
And for the audience as well. In December international HD viewers were treated to a live Fleming interview with Anna Netrebko and Roberto Alagna, the stars of Gounod's Rom_o et Juliette, as well as the interview with Domingo. Since the aim of the HD series is to present opera as a dynamic, engaging art form, Fleming may be the perfect ambassador. "Ren_e is an ideal backstage correspondent," says General Manager Peter Gelb. "Better than just about anyone she understands the pressures and rewards of performing for audiences both inside the house and around the world in HD."