Desdemona lives in Manhattan


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Renée Fleming — Soprano

Program notes

Renée Fleming returns to one of her most celebrated roles as Desdemona in Verdi's Otello.

It is currently on at New York's Met, home to the world's most creative and talented opera artists and one of the highlights of the city's bustling cultural life. For Renée, there is nowhere like the Big Apple to enjoy the best cultural experiences on offer: "Everybody needs to have leisure time, and when I have it, I am a culture nut, so I go to the theatre… last night there was the opening of Carnegie Hall. I was at the opening of the Metropolitan Opera the other night, and it's a privilege to be in a city where so much is on offer. I am proud to be a New Yorker, I love what it has to offer," she says. "The beauty of New York is that shops are open all night, and we don't drive, we hop in a cab, and we can do pretty much everything on foot, so it's a great lifestyle, it's a healthy lifestyle."

For Renée Fleming, Verdi's 19th century Otello addresses a timeless issue: "I think the contemporary women would see her as the victim of domestic abuse, we have a label for this now. The labelling of it is the first step towards eradicating it. When I started singing her, I never would have paired those two things together, and then it struck me one of the last times I sang the role, I thought: 'this is clear cut: this is domestic abuse!'"

Desdemona is one of Renée Fleming's signature roles. But getting into character was not that straightforward, even for such a great soprano. "When I first saw the opera, I have to tell you, honestly, I thought: 'This poor creature, she's just not very bright!' "She loves him so much, their love is so strong, and the First Act duet is some of the most glorious music ever in opera, that she never questions his feelings for her.

"She probably led a very sheltered life, so she doesn't have the sort of jaded quality that a woman with much more experience might have about relationships and men, therefore this is her undoing: it's this sense of trust," says Renée Fleming about her character.

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