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Prima Donna

Renée Fleming opens the Met’s season as Violetta in La Traviata—a tough role she backed out of twice but is now ready to take on.

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The honor of opening the Metropolitan Opera’s season has long been awarded to Pavarotti or Plácido. But on September 29, the task will fall, for the first time in years, to a woman. Renée Fleming will star as Violetta in La Traviata. “Violetta is arguably the greatest heroine written for a soprano voice,” Fleming says from the Upper West Side apartment she’s subletting with her two daughters (they moved back to New York from Connecticut last month). “It’s the role by which so many sopranos have been measured. It’s as if it were composed for three different voices, and one singer has to fill the bill . . . The first-act aria is a killer!” For Fleming, the part is a long time coming. She was originally supposed to perform it in England in 1992, but she was seven months pregnant and so opted for the less strenuous La Bohème (she performed Mimi until the week before the baby arrived). Then, in 1998, she was due to play Violetta at the Met but backed out when she found herself in the middle of a divorce. Happily, her voice is now in top form. “It’s as ready as it will ever be!”


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