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15 Dec 2004

Renée Fleming: Not By Talent Alone

Aiming For Her Very Top Note Tue Dec 14, 7:00 PM ET Curt Schleier Renee Fleming understands that natural talent isn't enough to assure success. In fact, Fleming said during a recent interview, natural ability can work against you. Take...

Aiming For Her Very Top Note

Tue Dec 14, 7:00 PM ET

Curt Schleier

Renee Fleming understands that natural talent isn't enough to assure success.

In fact, Fleming said during a recent interview, natural ability can work against you. Take the time she was still a student and scheduled to compete in a national contest sponsored by the Metropolitan Opera Co. of New York City. She decided to skip lengthy practice, figuring she could ride on her talent alone.

Wrong. She failed that audition largely for lack of preparation.

Despite that flop, Fleming refused to give up. She came close on occasion, but her love for singing won out and she kept reaching. It paid off. At just "about the time I decided I was not cut out for this job, doors began to open."

The doors opened for a reason. Fleming made it a point to audition for everything, even if she didn't think she had a shot at making it.

"It was a leave-no-stone-unturned kind of thinking," she said. "I have a lot of natural energy, and of course when drive and ambition are put into the mix, there was no stopping me. Add to that, I was an only child for whom there was always something to pursue."

Today Fleming, 45, is one of the world's most accomplished and renowned sopranos. But even the most exceptional singers need "an enormous amount of practice and experimentation, and you have to be very creative about mastering this instrument," she said.

It's not just a matter of putting in the time; it's a matter of putting in the time correctly, Fleming says. During practice, she focuses on every aspect of singing, from proper breathing techniques to learning the correct phraseology. It was during these practice sessions that she began to develop "my real passion for singing."

"It is a beautiful thing to sing in front of an audience, but singing to myself, alone in a room, breaking down phrases note by note, is even more satisfying somehow," she wrote in her just-published memoir, "The Inner Voice: The Making of a Singer."

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