Renée Fleming Visits NEC for a Masterclass

Acclaimed singer Renée Fleming presented a masterclass in Jordan Hall, co-presented by New England Conservatory and Boston University College of Fine Arts and featuring voice majors from both institutions.

Renee Fleming with a group of students from her masterclass in jordan hall

Renée Fleming, one of the most acclaimed singers of our time, hosted a masterclass in NEC's Jordan Hall on March 12th. The masterclass, co-presented by NEC and Boston University College of Fine Arts, featured voice students from both institutions. Elaine Daiber '20 GD and Saori Erickson '19 MM were chosen from NEC to sing with Ms. Fleming. Elaine sang Gounud's "Ah! Je ris de me voir si belle" from Faust and Saori sand Charpentier's "Depuis le jour" from Louis.

Renee Fleming teaching Elaine Daiber a technique

Elaine Daiber had this to say about the experience:

Being able to work with Renee Fleming in the masterclass was a wonderful and surreal experience. Her artistry is something that I have admired since I first started singing and the class was incredible. I was definitely nervous to start, but her energy and sense of humor put me at ease— she even encouraged me to take my shoes off! We worked on interpretation in my aria, finding a character that was more grounded in my body, but it was also nice to watch her work with the other participants since she chose something different to focus on with each singer. 
What an amazing afternoon. I am so grateful to NEC for this once in a lifetime opportunity!

Saori Erickson also joined us for a Q&A about her experience with Ms. Fleming:

What was it like singing with MS.FLEMING?

Terrifying, exciting, and so affirming! She is truly one of the great singers of our lifetime. I have been listening to her recordings ever since I started singing opera and she is like a hero to me. To sing for a legend like her is such a scary thing to do! I had to do a lot of praying and thinking over the weekend to flush some of nerves out of my system. As we were all gathered into Jordan Hall, waiting for her to come out, I felt a rush of excitement… and then… she came out! I immediately started to cry! I mean, there she is, Renee Fleming, and I’m going to sing for her! I went third in the program and it was such a joy to watch Ms. Fleming working with my friends and colleagues. It made me all the more excited for my turn! I sang, the audience clapped for me, and so did Renee Fleming. My hero clapped for me and liked my voice and told me my voice was beautiful… That is a dream come true.  

How did your studies at NEC prepare you for this experience?

My wonderful teacher, MaryAnn McCormick, has guided me to a clearer understanding of proper technique. During the masterclass, Ms. Fleming asked me a question about breathing. At first, I was super nervous and I was afraid I’d say the wrong answer! But I thought for a moment, calmed down, and was able to tell her exactly what I’m thinking while I’m breathing because my teacher and I discuss it in almost every lesson. I’ve been lucky enough to have many performance opportunities at NEC. Besides singing for Renee Fleming, singing on the Jordan Hall stage alone is super nerve wracking. But I have had so many wonderful experiences to perform and every instance has given me more confidence in myself and my singing.  

How much of an influence has MS. FLEMING had on your craft?

Like I said before, I have been listening to Renee Fleming ever since I started singing classically. She is easily one of, if not the most, famous opera singers of our time. I remember the time when I first started learning the aria I sang in the masterclass, “Depuis le jour”. I learned the text in French, learned the rhythms, the notes, and the markings in the score. Then I started practicing it as one does when learning a new aria. Out of curiosity, I listened to a few recordings of the aria on youtube and found a video of Renee Fleming’s famous performance of “Depuis le jour”, singing at the Met gala in 1996. I remember thinking, “oh… THIS is how you sing this aria”... I think that explains everything! She is an artist. I hope I can create music as beautifully and as communicative to audiences as she has in my own career.

What did you learn during the masterclass?

Breath is everything. It’s the basis of great technique. This is something I know… but don’t always remember to do as I’m thinking about 100 other things while I’m singing. But it’s so wonderful to focus on breath and she gave me a gentle reminder to do so. Once I started breathing better, my voice was freer to do some of the musical things she was asking me to do. It was so much fun to let Renee Fleming play with my voice! To change things here and there, to really do a piano high note here. It was so much fun!
Renee Fleming hugging Saori Erickson in front of piano

What was your favorite part of the masterclass?

Honestly, I loved the audience’s reaction to everything that was happening in the class. Ms. Fleming is wonderful with masterclasses and she has a way of making them both super educational, and fun! I loved how she would say something funny and people would laugh. The whole class had such a fun atmosphere and I think it was all the magic of Renee Fleming. She is such a kind and down to earth person and she has a way of making you feel comfortable in a masterclass setting, even when over 100 people are watching you. My other favorite part… was getting to hug Renee Fleming! My other, other favorite part was when Renee Fleming said that I had a beautiful voice. I can’t really remember exactly what she said because I blacked out for a moment from my shock and happiness!
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