Diane Radford, M.D.

Renée Fleming: the First Touchdown of the Super Bowl

January 27, 2014


Renée Fleming Miro Vrlik Photography / Shutterstock.com

Renée Fleming
Miro Vrlik Photography / Shutterstock.com

When it was announced earlier this week that Renée Fleming would sing the National Anthem at the Super Bowl on Feb 2nd, I was overjoyed. Others were bemused, even critical — after all, no opera singer has opened the football championship before. So why can’t there be a first? I asked.

Since I’m penning a collection of humorous essays based on my mother Margery’s quirky sayings, Mum has been on my mind a lot recently. She loved to hear soprano voices soar. She was exposed to the best when she was a young lady in Manchester, England. Isobel Baillie, known as “the nightingale,” sang with the Hallé Orchestra in Manchester between the wars. Mum bought recordings of her work and treasured them for years. Dame Isobel’s rendition of “I Know That My Redeemer Liveth” from Handel’s Messiah filled the front room of our house in Troon, as the LP rotated within the teak RCA gramophone in the corner. Mum reclined in a comfy chair, nestled in the plush upholstery, her eyes closed, her hands cupped around a brandy snifter as she absorbed the music.

Margery’s admiration for sopranos continued throughout her life. When I looked through her collection of CDs in her room at Westbank Nursing Home, I found music by Maria Callas, Lesley Garrett, Kiri Te Kanawa, and Sarah Brightman. The CD player standing alongside her collection had been modified so she could find the controls by feel. The texture and shape of the glued-on buttons of various sizes, and the Velcro, told her where to find play, volume, and stop.

My mother’s enthusiasm has rubbed off on me. I’ve heard some great sopranos in St. Louis — Frederica von Stade, Kathleen Battle, Christine Brewer and Renée Fleming herself. I’ve been lucky enough to hear Ms. Fleming entertain St. Louis more than once — at the acoustically renowned Sheldon Concert Hall and at Powell Hall with the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra. I wish my Mother could have enjoyed those performances with me.

I’m looking forward to Super Bowl 48 for many reasons, and I heartily approve of the choice of “the people’s diva” to start the show before the kickoff between the Seattle Seahawks and the Denver Broncos. Margery would approve too, she’d nod her head and say, “She’s got a great set of pipes.”


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