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University of Iowa News Release

Feb. 17, 2006

Renee Fleming, 'The World's Most Beautiful Voice,' Sings In Hancher March 7

American soprano Renee Fleming, hailed in The New Yorker as "The world's most beautiful voice," will bring her wide-ranging vocal artistry to the University of Iowa Hancher Auditorium at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 7.

Fleming will sing arias from "Adriana Lecouvreur," "Gianni Schicchi" and several operas by Henry Purcell and George Handel. The Handel arias on her program are all taken from her recent CD entitled "Handel." Also on the program are songs by Robert Schumann and a song cycle by George Crumb based on poems by Walt Whitman.

Renowned for her sensuous voice, stylistic versatility, elegant beauty and captivating stage presence, Fleming is recognized as the "gold standard of soprano sound." She's a two-time Grammy Award winner equally at home on the opera stage, the classical concert stage and in a popular-music settings.

Even though she had been an established star for more than a decade -- with two Grammy Awards and eight nominations, and roles in the world's major opera houses -- she reached more listeners than ever before when her voice was featured on the Academy Award-winning movie soundtrack of "The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King."

Fleming was also the inspiration for the main character in the best-selling novel "Bel Canto," by UI Writers' Workshop alumna Ann Patchett. The novel was not only the winner of the PEN/Hemingway Award and a finalist for the National Book Award, but also was the 2003 "One Community, One Book -- Johnson County Reads" selection.

While studying music education in the Crane School of Music at the State University of New York at Potsdam, Fleming sang jazz in an off-campus bar. And she could have pursued that as her career: Prominent jazz saxophonist Illinois Jacquet invited her on tour with his big band, but she chose instead to continue with classical studies at the Eastman School of Music and the Juilliard School -- studies during which she was a Fulbright scholar.

Fleming's major break came in 1988 when she sang the Countess in "The Marriage of Figaro" at the Houston Grand Opera. In 1989, she made debuts with the New York City Opera and the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, and in 1991, she made her Metropolitan Opera debut.

As a youngster, Fleming enjoyed popular music and admired the talents of Joni Mitchell and other singers, and that interest is still reflected in her diverse repertory. In addition to opera standards, she performs new music, Broadway show tunes and other popular genres.

Recent highlights include a performance with the London Symphony Orchestra at the Barbican for Andre Previn's 75th Birthday Gala, performances of "Otello" with the Royal Opera at Covent Garden, a performance with the Danish Radio Orchestra and appearances at major music festivals including Lincoln Center's Mostly Mozart (televised on PBS), Spain's Festival Internacional de Santander, Switzerland's Lucerne Festival and Berlin's famed "Waldbuehnen" series.

"Haunted Heart," a popular album of jazz standards and classical works with jazz pianist Fred Hersch and versatile guitarist Bill Frisell, was released last summer.

This season has included the American paperback release of her acclaimed book, "The Inner Voice," and the release by Decca of two recordings: Strauss' "Daphne" with the WDR Symphony conducted by Semyon Bychkov, and "Sacred Songs," a collection of sacred songs and arias recorded with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Andreas Delfs.

An avid reader since childhood, Fleming is a prominent advocate for literacy. She is featured in the 2005 nationwide "Get Caught Reading" campaign, supported by the Association of American Publishers and the Magazine Publishers of America, and also in the 2004-2005 READ poster campaign by the American Library Association. Her book, "The Inner Voice," is an intimate account of her career and the creative process.

Among her many recent honors are the 2004 Classical Brits Award for Outstanding Contribution to Music, Honorary Membership by the Royal Academy of Music, the 2003 Female Artist of the Year from the Classical Brits Awards and an honorary doctorate from the Juilliard School. She is also is a member of the board of trustees of the Carnegie Hall Corporation.

She appears in the new feature documentary film, "In Search of Mozart," also part of the celebration of the 250th birthday.

Fleming's March 7 Hancher performance is supported by William and Marlene Stanford through the University of Iowa Foundation.

Tickets are $58/55/50; UI students and senior citizens $52.20/49.50/45 $34.20/31.50; youth $40.60/38.50/35.

Hancher Auditorium box office business hours are 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. weekdays and 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturdays. From the local calling area, dial 319-335-1160. Long distance is toll-free, 1-800-HANCHER. People with special needs for access, seating and auxiliary services should dial 319-335-1158, which is equipped with TDD for people with hearing impairment who use that technology.

Tickets may be ordered on-line 24 hours a day, seven days a week through Hancher's website: www.hancher.uiowa.edu.

Orders may be charged to VISA, MasterCard or American Express. UI students may charge their purchases to their university bills, and UI faculty and staff may select the option of payroll deduction. Information and brochures may be requested by e-mail: hancher-box-office@uiowa.edu

For UI arts information and calendar updates, visit http://www.uiowa.edu/artsiowa. To receive UI arts news by e-mail, ur-acr@uiowa.edu.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa Arts Center Relations, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 351, Iowa City, IA 52242-2500.

MEDIA CONTACT: Winston Barclay, 319-384-0073, winston-barclay@uiowa.edu

PHOTOS are available at www.uiowa.edu/hancher/media05.html