Thursday, February 04, 2010

Encounter With Renee Fleming

At first, I had no idea what I might say to diva Renee Fleming, standing nearby at a late-night reception at the Harvard Club in New York City on Feb. 3. Then I had an inspiration.
“I have a question,” I said. She turned to me. “Yes?”
“Gracie Moore said that once, when she was about to sing a high C, the tenor singing next to her deliberately stepped on her foot.”
Fleming laughed and said, if she said it, it must be true.
She wrote it, I said. Has anything like that ever happened to you?
“Tenors,” she said. “If I was about to hold a note longer than the tenor, he would squeeze my arm to let me know I should stop.”
I was thinking of mentioning that Franco Corelli had once complained to Rudolf Bing that Birgit Nilsson, in a duet they were singing that night, had held a note longer than he had. Bing told him to bite her the next time it happened. So, later on, apparently he nipped her—on the shoulder, perhaps.
The next day, Nilsson phoned Bing. She might have to cancel a few performances, she warned him. She had to be examined for rabies.
But while I was thinking of mentioning this to Renee Fleming, she had already turned to listen to another of her admirers. And I’m sure she had already heard that story anyway.

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