Soprano star Renée Fleming back in New York to bring Virginia Woolf to life

The American singer returns to the Metropolitan Opera stage on Tuesday evening for an unprecedented adaptation of Hoursmise en abyme by Michael Cunningham of the life of the English novelist.

Renee Fleming is back: the American star soprano returns on Tuesday evening to the stage of the Metropolitan Opera in New York, for an original adaptation of “The Hours”, the work of Virginia Woolf.

Novel by Michael Cunningham released in 1999 and crowned with a Pulitzer Prize, then a film (2002) nominated nine times for the Oscars, Hours (The Hours in original version) tells the story of three women of different generations, but all linked by the same work of the British novelist: Mrs Dalloway.

At the movie theater, Nicole Kidman had won the Oscar for best actress in 2003 for her portrayal of Virginia Woolf, plagued by depression and fragile mental health when she worked on this novel in the early 1920s. Her destiny was put in parallel with that of a 1950s Californian mother seeking escape from a conventional life (Julianne Moore), and a New York literary editor (Meryl Streep), faced with the illness of a companion struck down by AIDS.

Three prestigious actresses are succeeded by a trio of renowned singers: the mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato – winner of three Grammy Awards in her career – to embody Virginia WoolfBroadway and opera star Kelli O’Hara, and Renée Fleming as the New York publisher.

With this creation, Renée Fleming, great star of American opera, is back on the prestigious stage of the Met Opera, where five years ago she said goodbye to one of her greatest roles, in the Rosenkavalier by Richard Strauss.

powerful women

In his eyes, opera is the genre “perfect” to adapt The Hours, “due to the complexity of having to deal with three periods” different. In an interview with AFP, she compares music to “a kind of river on which we can all float, together or separately”. It was she who had the idea for this adaptation and whispered it in the ear of the composer Kevin Puts. “What you can do in music that you can’t really accomplish in a movie or a book is that you can, at one point, present all three stories…simultaneously”abounds the composer.

Before this project, Renée Fleming was already working with the composer, for whom she embodied the great painter of the XXe century, Georgia O’Keeffe. With a guiding thread, tell the stories of powerful women. “Too often in opera, historically, women have been sort of pawnsshe explains. They have been victims, they have been at the center of power struggles when they have none (…) I now want to tell stories about women who are extraordinary”.

In addition to the power of the voices, The Hours incorporates modern dance in a way not often found in traditional operas, with dozens of performers physically manifesting the emotions of the characters. For Renée Fleming, productions like this can play a vital role in rejuvenating opera and attracting new audiences. A long-term goal that the Metropolitan is striving to achieve. The institution opened its 2021 season by showing, for the first time in 138 years, the first opera composed by a black musician, Fire Shut Up In My Bones by Terence Blanchard, a modern and flamboyant work, with jazz and blues accents. “All of our art forms must truly represent our people”insists Renée Fleming, on the poster of The Hoursat the Metropolitan Opera in Manhattan from November 22 to December 15.

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